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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Surapong plays down Cambodian attack on chopper

Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul said yesterday that an incident in which Cambodian forces fired upon a Thai helicopter near the Cambodian border last week was a misunderstanding and would not lead to a dispute between the countries.

He said he would clear up the misunderstanding, although reports had it that Navy commander Admiral Surasak Runrerngrom had issued a letter of protest against Cambodia and closed border checkpoints and goods-transit points.

The foreign minister said the incident would not inflame the border conflict because Thailand and Cambodia enjoyed cordial relations. He said he is scheduled to meet Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong on December 29, which would give him an opportunity to discuss many issues.

Vice Admiral Pongsak Riroj said the helicopter of the Chanthaburi and Trat Border Prevention Command was attacked and damaged by Cambodian forces for unknown reasons while flying in Trat on Friday. The Thai military retaliated by closing two transit points for goods in Trat's Muang and Bo Rai districts, and 30 smaller border checkpoints in Chanthaburi and Trat used by Cambodia to buy supplies for military personnel and civilians.

The checkpoint at Ban Had Lek, however, remained open.

Democrat Party spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut accused Surapong of failing to protect the country's integrity and sovereignty by not protesting to Cambodia over the incident. "The first thing the government must do is to lodge a protest with the Cambodian government, otherwise it means we admit that we are wrong.

"Cambodia has issued a statement saying its forces shot at the helicopter legitimately because Thailand encroached upon its territory,'' he said.

Meanwhile, Chavanond called on the Foreign Ministry to reveal the truth over the issuing of a passport to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

The Pheu Thai Party earlier said Thaksin, who is on the run from a corruption conviction, was not on a ministry blacklist. Chavanond said Thaksin is the subject of an arrest warrant on a criminal charge and is banned from holding a travel document.

"The rules are clear. How can the government distort or delete these rules?'' the spokesman asked.

Meanwhile, Auditor-General Sriracha Charoenpanit said his office last week submitted its second summons for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to give a statement on an alleged conflict of interest in connection with the government's tax-deduction policy to support first-time homebuyers. Sriracha said Yingluck postponed her first summons response because she was occupied with tackling the flooding.

Yingluck has 30 days from the issuing of the second summons to meet with officials. The Democrat Party accuses the government of policy corruption by issuing a housing scheme that favours SC Asset. Yingluck is a former chief executive of the company.

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