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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Prawit rejects GBC meeting in Indonesia

Defence minister wants bilateral talks

Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon and army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha will not attend the 8th General Border Committee meeting with Cambodia.

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha greets a boy as he presides over the opening ceremony of two 20-floor condominiums in the background built for families of soldiers. The 2.1-billionbaht residence is located in the compound of an old military prison at the 11th Military Circle in Bangkok’s Kiakkai area. WASSANANANUAM

Referring to the meeting, scheduled for Bogor, Indonesia, on April 7-8, Gen Prawit said: "No, I'm not going. Why should I go for the meeting in a third-party country? [Thailand and Cambodia] know each other well enough and don't want any other party to get involved."

A military source said Gen Prawit had also decided not to attend an earlier GBC meeting in Indonesia proposed by Cambodia and the Asean chair.

Gen Prawit cited the same reason then, saying relations between the Cambodian and Thai armies were good enough for the border dispute to be resolved through bilateral mechanisms, said the source.

According to the source, Gen Prawit said he would seek to have talks with his Cambodian counterpart, Gen Tea Banh, but was concerned the latter would not agree, since Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had made it clear he would not allow any new bilateral discussions with Thailand.

Gen Prayuth also said Cambodia's proposal to set up 15 joint border checkpoints in the disputed 4.6-square-kilometre area near Preah Vihear temple was unnecessary, as he believed the dispute could be solved through military talks.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday that Unesco would push for Thailand and Cambodia to attend a meeting on border issues in May.

He was speaking after a meeting with Unesco director-general Irina Bokova.

The May talks are aimed at improving the understanding between the two countries before Unesco holds its World Heritage Committee (WHC) meeting in Paris a month later.

There, the WHC will discuss Cambodia's management plan for Preah Vihear.

The meeting was scheduled for Bahrain but switched to Paris when political unrest erupted there.

Mr Abhisit also said bilateral talks through the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) remained crucial to deter attempts to turn the border issue into a multilateral matter.

To allow the JBC mechanism to move forward, the parliament's endorsement on the three JBC memos under the 2000 MoU regarding border issues was needed, he said.

Meanwhile, the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) said it would petition the National Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate Mr Abhisit and the other concerned people over allegations they had violated Sections 157, 119 and 120 of the Constitution by not revoking the MoU.

PAD spokesman Parnthep Pourpongpan said the alliance would also petition the Constitution Court to interpret if the MoU was in breach of the charter.

The health of Thai Patriots Network coordinator Veera Somkhwamkid, jailed for eight years in Cambodia after being found guilty of espionage and illegal entry to the country on Dec 29, is said to have vastly improved.

His younger brother, Preecha Somkhwamkid, visited Veera at Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh on Monday and reported that his condition was much better after a recent bout of ill health.

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