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Saturday, September 03, 2011

Suthep reaffirms no secret talks with Cambodia

BANGKOK, Sept 3 - Former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban on Saturday denied Cambodia's claims over alleged secret talks on overlapping oil and gas-rich maritime territories during the tenure of Abhisit Vejjajiva administration, while challenging the Thai government to speed up investigation of the matter.

Mr Suthep made remarks following a statement by the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority (CNPA) claiming that secret meetings between him and his Cambodian counterpart Sok An were held several times in various locations such as Cambodia’s Kandal province, China’s Kunming city in Yunnan, and Hong Kong, to deal with overlapping claims to the offshore area believed to be rich in oil and gas reserves.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra also assigned Foreign Minister Surapong Towichakchaikul to look into the case.

Mr Suthep, former deputy premier who supervised national security, reasserted that it was Cambodian deputy prime minister Sok An who contacted him for unofficial meetings, before an official meeting on maritime demarcation would be officially held.

"After the unofficial talks, I reported the outcome to concerned agencies, with about 30 to 40 people being informed of the meeting results," stated Mr Suthep. "So it was not a secret."

The Democrat MP said that an official meeting however was not held due to the ongoing tensions between Thailand and Cambodia stemming from a border dispute.

"If the government will set up a committee to probe the case, I have no problem, and I challenge them to speed up the investigation and reveal the results to the public no matter who may benefit from the outcome," reaffirmed Mr Suthep.

Following allegations by the foreign minister saying Mr Suthep, former defence minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Cambodian deputy premier Sok An jointly opened an energy investment firm, Mr Suthep asserted he has never invested in any energy business with anyone, while urging those who have evidence that he formed such a company to disclose the details.

Mr Suthep said he was willing to divest the business for public benefit if it was found that he had such a business.

Foreign minister Surapong earlier said he would send a letter to Cambodia seeking more details on the allegations regarding Mr Suthep, while defending there was no hidden agenda over the Cambodian move, as Phnom Penh has affirmed that it wanted to improve relations with Thailand.

The Phnom Penh Post earlier reported a CNPA statement saying meetings between high ranking officials including Prime Minister Hun Sen, Deputy Minister Sok An, former Thai deputy prime minister Suthep and former defence minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan took place between June 2009 and July 2010 at various locations, and that Mr Suthep at the time “indicated a strong preference to resolve this issue during the mandate of the Abhisit government.”

As Mr Abhisit earlier accused deposed premier Thaksin Shinawara of having secret interests with Cambodia, the CNPA statement said it needed to reveal the truth “to protect the interests of Cambodia and H.E. Thaksin Shinawatra against baseless allegations made on the part of the Democrats.” (MCOT online news)

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