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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

PM heads to Brunei on her first trip

Yingluck begins Asean tour at the weekend to cement relations; Indonesia and Cambodia also on travel itinerary


Prime Minister Yingluck Shina-watra will make her first trip overseas, beginning with Brunei, this weekend aimed at cementing ties with Asean countries, a government source said yesterday.

Yingluck will make a one-day visit to Brunei on September 10, to Indonesia on September 12 and to Cambodia on September 15.

Foreign Ministry officials had recommended that Prime Minister Yingluck and Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul visit Asean members in alphabet order but the schedules of counterparts in foreign countries did not make this possible.

The Asean members in alphabetical order are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myan-mar (Burma), the Philippines, Singa-pore, Thailand and Vietnam. Although visiting the countries in alphabetical order was not possible, Yingluck has made Brunei her first foreign destination as PM.

Brunei is the country which her brother and former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra often visited while in exile. Thaksin openly met former prime minister Banharn Silpa-archa, who is de-facto leader of the coalition Chart Thai Pattana Party, in Brunei recently to discuss a portfolio quota in the Yingluck cabinet.

Yingluck's next stop will be Indonesia, which currently holds the rotating chairmanship of Asean. Jakarta is also playing a crucial role in facilitating peace efforts between Thailand and Cambodia following a border dispute at the Hindu temple of Preah Vihear.

Indonesia planned to dispatch an observer team to assess the situation and observe troop withdrawal from the disputed area adjacent to the temple in accordance with the order of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The court ordered Thailand and Cambodia to withdraw their troops from the court-determined demilitarised zone near the temple pending interpretation of the 1962 judgement on the Preah Vihear case. The court wanted the two countries to welcome an Indonesian observer team for the troop-withdrawal process. Cambodia decided to fully comply with the ICJ injunction. The previous Thai government under Abhisit Vejjajiva did not take any clear position on the order and Yingluck also has not yet announced her stand.

She will visit Cambodia on September 15, to introduce herself to the government in Phnom Penh while also attempting to improve bilateral relations after the boundary conflict.

Foreign Minister Surapong said he would be accompanying the prime minister to Phnom Penh and seek the opportunity to meet his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong to discuss various issues that have been at the core of the conflict between the two countries. The minister said he would seek ways to secure the release of the two Thai nationalist activists - Veera Somkwamkid and Ratree Pipatanapaiboon - who are serving jail sentences in Phnom Penh on espionage charges.

Defence Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapha plans to visit Cambodia on September 23-24 to discuss troop arrangement along the border and the possibility of activating a meeting of the General Border Committee.

Meanwhile, in a separate event, the Kanthalalak court yesterday sentenced to two years' imprisonment a Thai national Suchart Muhammad, a Cambodian Ung Kimtai and a Vietnamese Nguyen Tien Don.

They were arrested on June 7 in Si Sa Ket's Kanthalalak district while driving a pickup truck to see the military outpost in the area. The court convicted them of spying on the locations of the military bases and bunkers of civilians along the border.

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