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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

FM Surapong accused of failing to protect Thailand's interest

The opposition Democrat Party on Tuesday accused Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul of failing to protect Thailand's interests in the border dispute with Cambodia.

Democrat spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalsut said the foreign minister failed to protest when Unesco's international coordinating committee (ICC) last Wednesday inspected the ancient Preah Vihear temple on the border between the two countries.

Both Thailand and Cambodia claim sovereignty over a 4.6squarekilometre area next to Preah Vihear - known as Phra Wihan in Thai - which the World Court said in 1962 belonged to Cambodia.

Meanwhile Surapong dismissed the accusation as a Democrat attempt to distort facts for political benefit. "I call on the opposition to stop playing politics. They should avoid causing damage to the country by playing political games," he said.

Chavanond said the Cabinet in December 2008 resolved to reserve Thailand's right for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation to notify the country before entering the area claimed by Thailand to examine the temple.

He said Unesco was aware of the Cabinet resolution as it was informed by Thailand's ambassador to France.

According to the Democrat spokesman, this government failed to send any representative to join the ICC examination of the Preah Vihear compound. "Thailand this time failed to abide by our own order and allowed them to pass our territory easily," he said.

Chavanond added that it was likely that Cambodia would try to take advantage of the situation when it came to the border dispute between the two countries.

Chavanond, serving as secretary to Surapong's immediate predecessor Kasit Piromya, claimed that some officials of the Foreign Affairs Ministry - increasingly discontent with the foreign minister's actions - were regularly supplying him with information about what Surapong did.

"I do not call for anything more than abiding by the Cabinet resolution to protect our sovereignty," Chavanond said. "I believe [Cambodian Prime Minister] Hun Sen loves this government the most. This government has allowed him to do whatever he likes more than any other government over the past 10 years."

Surapong said that Unesco and Cambodia invited Thailand to join the ICC examination tour but that Thailand turned it down. He added that the opposition should not try to politicise the matter.

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