The land of heroes
Our heroes
Our land
Cambodia Kingdom

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Thai FM discusses plans for south

By Jonathan Head

Thailand's Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya has promised a new approach to the conflict in the country's south.

Mr Kasit told the BBC the government plans to appoint a new civilian body to administer the Muslim majority south.

It will make the military subordinate to a civilian body for the first time since violence flared in 2004 between separatist insurgents and the army.

Mr Kasit also promised a fresh start to negotiations with Cambodia over their disputed border.

A staunch supporter of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which helped unseat the last government, Kasit Piromya is the most controversial member of the new cabinet in Thailand.

As foreign minister he remains unapologetic about his support for the PAD's campaign of disruption, including the week-long occupation of Bangkok's main international airport last year.

He says he still views this as a legitimate tactic.

Armed clashes

Mr Kasit said a new civilian body would administer the south of Thailand, where 3,000 people have lost their lives over the past five years in the brutal conflict.

He also promised that soldiers found guilty of abuses would be brought to justice.

"This body will be under supervision at the political level," he said.

When asked whether the army would continue to run things in the region - as indicated by the army commander - Mr Kasit replied: "No, no - this is a civilian-led government.

"It's not the military or the police that will be running the south, it is the government which will be running the south."

The foreign minister said he also hoped to start fresh talks this month with Cambodia over the disputed territory around an ancient temple on their border, which was the scene of armed clashes between troops from the two countries.

There are no conflicts of interest to hinder us now, he said - a reference to allegations that the business interests of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in Cambodia had influenced the foreign policy of the previous government.
Read more!

Cambodia PM wants to unify dates of regional meets

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen urged Thailand on Thursday to coordinate the dates of regional meetings it will host because the current schedule inconveniences him and other leaders.
The annual summit of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations should take place at the same time as other regional get-togethers as has been the practice in the past, Hun Sen said.

"I can't travel to Thailand three times a year to join the ASEAN summit, I have my own work to do too, and I think other leaders also do," he said.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Wednesday announced that ASEAN's summit will be held Feb. 27 to March 1 at the seaside resort town of Hua Hin.

But he added separate meetings with dialogue partners China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand would be held in late April because Beijing will be busy with its own ruling party congress at the time of the ASEAN summit.

Hun Sen described the plan to separate the meetings as "a waste of time." He said if the meetings could not be coordinated, then they should be rescheduled for the end of the year.

Thailand had already changed the date and venue of the ASEAN meeting several times because of domestic political turmoil. The summit was originally scheduled for last December in the capital, Bangkok, then changed to the northern city of Chiang Mai.

Hun Sen is often critical of Cambodia's bigger, western neighbor Thailand, with whom it sometimes has frosty relations. Last year, a border dispute led to minor clashes in which several soldiers died.
Read more!