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Monday, March 28, 2011

Prawit: Border talks must remain bilateral

Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon agrees that Thailand and Cambodia can discuss their border disputes in Indonesia, but insists that any such talks must be bilateral and Indonesian authorities must not be involved. Gen Prawit was responding on Monday to a report that his Cambodian counterpart Gen Tea Banh proposed that the next meetings of the Thai-Cambodian General Border Committee (GBC) and of the Thai-Cambodia Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) be held together in Indonesia. Gen Prawit said Gen Tea Banh had not informed him of his proposal yet. He said the next meeting of the GBC and JBC should not be held at the same time. The JBC meeting should come first because the GBC meeting's agenda is security along the Thai-Cambodian border and was ‘’discussable’’. There should not be a problem, the defence minister said. At the next GBC meeting the two sides will discuss problems in implementing agreements over the disputed border area, security along the border, illegal labour, drug smuggling and other crime. When Gen Prawit was asked by the reporters what he would say if Cambodia insisted the meeting take place in Indonesia, he said Thai authorities would have no problem with that, but both sides would need to talk first. However he insisted the GBC meeting must be bilateral. ‘’ Asean (The Association of Southeast Asian Nations) has agreed that Indonesia will take part only in the news conference and will not attend the meeting. We have no problem if things remain this way,’’ Gen Prawit said. The general reiterated his previous position that the Thai-Cambodian border dispute does not affect the travel or trade of people in either country and the two sides can still sit around a table and negotiate,. There, there should be no need to hold the JBC and GBC meetings in a third country. Meanwhile, the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) spokesman Panthep Puapongpan has filed a petition with the House of Representatives, again demanding that parliament refuse to endorse the three JBC memos under the 2000 MoU regarding border issues. The PAD claims that parliamentary endorsement of the three memos, which were signed in 2009 and in 2008 by the Joint Boundary Commission, would result in a significant loss of territory. The government will table the three memos in parliament tomorrow.

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