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Saturday, November 14, 2009

PM Abhisit: Thai-Cambodian diplomatic standoff must be resolved by both parties

SINGAPORE, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Saturday that the ongoing diplomatic spat between Thailand and its neighbour Cambodia will not affect cooperation among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), emphasising that the problem must be solved by the two countries.

Mr Abhisit, now at the three-day 17th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings in Singapore, told journalists that ASEAN secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan advised that Thailand and Cambodian should resolve their tensions before ASEAN leaders meet US President Barack Obama on Sunday. He affirmed that Thailand, currently chairman and a member of ASEAN, will not raised the issue at the meeting.

Thailand and Cambodia, along with Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam, are ASEAN members.

Mr Abhisit said he would confer with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on the sidelines of US-ASEAN summit Sunday.

Diplomatic ties between the Cambodia and Thailand have worsened after their ambassadors were recalled, first secretaries expelled and the Cambodian government arrested a Thai man allegedly spying on fugitive, ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, but Thailand has said that the accusation was groundless against the Thai citizen.

Cambodia Deputy National Police Chief Lt-Gen Sok Phal was quoted by the Associated Press as saying 31-year-old Siwarak Chothipong gave Mr Thaksin’s flight schedule to the first secretary at the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh.

Mr Abhisit said Thai government officials would try to meet detained Mr. Siwarak and ask him what charges have been leveled.

The Thai prime minister said he would be surprised if the Cambodian government refuses Thai officials an opportunity to meet Mr Siwarak, an engineer at Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS).

He added that the flight information was not considered as secret. (TNA)

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Cambodian gov't guarantees safety for all Thais, no sign against Thais: official

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia will guarantee safety and security for Thais including diplomats, business people and travelers in the country, government official said on Saturday.

"The Cambodian government will ensure the safety and security for all Thais like diplomats, business people, travelers and other foreigners staying in Cambodia," Koy Kuong, spokesman and undersecretary of state of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation told Xinhua.

"Thais should not be afraid of staying in Cambodia, the Royal Government will ensure security for them," he said.

"We do not see any sign to protest against Thais or to run riot at Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh," Koy Kuong said, adding that no sign of riots against Thais at all. Cambodian government has responsibility for all Thais as Thai government does for our people and diplomats in their country, he stressed.

It is a response to some Thais here who expressed their concern over the tit-for-tat moves taken by Cambodian and Thailand governments in recent days.

Relations between the two neighboring countries were further strained recently after Cambodia named ousted former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra its economic adviser on Nov. 4. Thailand recalled its ambassador on Nov. 5, and Cambodia followed suit.

Those Thais worried that the rows between the two countries will result into any riots against Thais in Cambodia as it was in 2003, in which a part of Thai embassy and some property of Thai companies were under fire.
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Suthep denies Cambodia spying

The Thai government had never sent a spy to seek information on flight schedule of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as accused of by Cambodia, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said on Saturday.

Mr Suthep was responding to an accusation by Jatuporn Promphan, a core leader of the pro-Thaksin United front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), that the government was behind the information spying.

“The flight schedule of Thaksin was not a secret as the government knew that he was flying by his personal jet from India to Cambodia on Tuesday morninhg ”, Mr Suthep said.

Cambodian police on Thursday arrested Siwarak Chotepong, an engineer at Samart Coorporation’s sudsiodiary in Cambodia on charge of spying.

Mr Suthep insisted that Mr Siwartak’s arrest will not escalate the diplomatic dispute and lead to a border closure as some fear.

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Democrats: Thaksin 'using' Cambodia

Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is using Cambodia as a political base to topple the government, Thepthai Senpong, spokesman of the Democrat Party leader, said on Saturday.

Mr Thepthai pointed out that the withdrawal of Cambodian troop along the dispute border near the Preah Vihear temple on Friday was made because Hun Sen wanted to make Thaksin a hero.

He said the fact was that there was no military tension along the Thai-Cambodian border. The accusation that

“Thai government had sent a spy to Cambodia was purely a pretext to help justify Hun Sen’s latest support for Thaksin”, he said.

Regarding the fund-raising concert to be held in Khao Yai of Nakhon Ratchasima province late this afternoon by leaders of the pro-Thaksin United front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) is aimed at showing that the UDD has no money.

UDD wanted to show that Thaksin has never provided any financial support to the red-shirted people group as alleged by the Democrats.

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Govt ready to fly Thais out of Cambodia


Thailand is preparing to evacuate its citizens from Cambodia if the diplomatic row between the countries worsens, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said yesterday.

"The arrest of a Thai national will not lead to closure of the embassy [in Phnom Penh]. The Thai government will ensure security for the Cambodian Embassy in Thailand and we believe Cambodia will also take care of our embassy in that country," Suthep said.

"If bilateral relations become more violent, the government is ready to evacuate Thai citizens from Cambodia immediately," he added.

In early 2003, the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh was burnt by rioters and several Thai-owned businesses in Cambodia were attacked following a rumour that a Thai actress had claimed the Angkor Wat temple - Cambodia's prized cultural icon - belonged to Thailand. An evacuation of Thai citizens followed the riots.

Suthep said the government had provided legal assistance for a Thai engineer arrested in Cambodia last week on charges of spying.

Siwarak Chothipong, 31, who works at Cambodia Air Traffic Service, is accused of supplying the Thai Embassy with details of ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra's flight schedule, according to Cambodian police.

Thailand submitted a request to visit the detained suspect, which was being considered by Cambodia's Interior Ministry, said officials from both countries.

"We have to see him, whatever happens," said Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to Thailand's foreign minister. "Thailand categorically denies all of the spy allegations."

There was no reply from the Cambodian authorities yesterday, he said, adding that it was probably because it was a holiday.

Suthep told journalists that flight information on Thaksin's journey to Cambodia was not a secret, as the Aviation Department and Aeronautical Radio of Thailand had been asked to allow his chartered jet to fly over Thai airspace.

After learning that the plane had Thaksin on board, the government refused to allow it permission to pass through Thai airspace as he has been convicted and was also facing charges of threatening national security, Suthep said.

The deputy prime minister said Thailand would use this evidence to defend Siwarak, but the government would not intervene in Cambodia's judicial system. Initially, Samart Corp - Siwarak's employer - sent a lawyer to assist him.

In Singapore, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday that the ongoing diplomatic spat between Thailand and Cambodia would not affect cooperation among Asean members, emphasising that the problem must be solved by the two countries.

Abhisit, who is attending the 17th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum meeting, told journalists that Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan had advised that Thailand and Cambodia should resolve the tension before the Asean leaders meet US President Barack Obama today.

He affirmed that Thailand, currently the Asean chair, would not raise the issue at the meeting.

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