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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cambodia at the end of its tether

O SVAY (Cambodia) - Cambodia's Prime Minister says his country will complain to the International Court of Justice that Thailand is occupying its land.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Tuesday that Thailand had encroached on land around the landmark Preah Vihear Temple, in northern Cambodia, which the court awarded Phnom Penh in 1962. He made his remarks while visiting the disputed territory.

Thailand acknowledged Cambodian sovereignty over the temple, but both countries claim 4.6 square kilometres of nearby land. Their troops have clashed there several times.

"Cambodia has reached the limits of its patience," Mr Hun Sen said on Tuesday during a visit to the disputed territory.

"Cambodia wants to solve this territorial dispute by filing a complaint to the international court at The Hague," he said, adding he would ask the United Nations to help solve the issue.

Nationalist passions have run high at the border since 2008 after Thailand first backed, then opposed Cambodia's bid to name the 11th-century temple a UN World Heritage site.

Cambodia and Thailand share an 800-km land border, part of which was never clearly demarcated because each country relies on different maps.

Meanwhile, Internet giant Google has promised Cambodia it will review a map of Preah Vihear Temple, though it stopped short of saying it would change the document.

The Cambodian authorities accused Google of being "professionally irresponsible" in a letter sent last week, because its Google Earth map depicts nearly half of the Preah Vihear Temple as being in Thailand.

Google, in a letter sent to the government, said it was "carefully reviewing" Phnom Penh's objection but also suggested that it contact Tele Atlas, a mapping company it says provided the border data to the company. AGENCIES
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Surakiart to govt: Just get over Thaksin

The government needs to get over its obsession with Thaksin Shinawatra or it will lose what remains of its withered credibility overseas, says former foreign minister Surakiart Sathirathai.

Thailand's post-coup standing in the international arena was deteriorating and it had lost the confidence of its neighbours, Mr Surakiart told a Chulalongkorn University forum yesterday.

Thailand had also lost its unique role as a regional coordinator and venue provider for sensitive issues, said the foreign minister who served under Thaksin.

"We've dropped off the radar as a positive influence on the international community, and joined the negative radar for our ongoing domestic political rifts that destroyed several international meetings hosted here last year," he said.

Thailand could reverse the harm it had done to itself if domestic politics, especially its obsession with self-exiled former prime minister Thaksin, were detached from foreign affairs.

"Thailand needs to make friends with its neighbours again," he said.

"Informal meetings, phone calls, short visits or quick lunches must be reintroduced at both ministerial and leader levels with key countries such as Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma and China."

On the Cambodian dispute, he advised the government to separate politics from boundary issues and think carefully before retaliating to jibes.

"Of course, the leader of one country slamming another is a disgrace and we all know that [Cambodia] should also detach itself from nationalism when it approaches issues concerning Thailand.

"Thankfully, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva did not respond to the latest provocations, which could have spurred on the latest bilateral dispute even more."

Mr Surakiart said Thailand consistently underestimates other countries.

"We need to overhaul the way we evaluate situations regarding our neighbours. They have dignity, connections and friends much more than they had in the past, which is why Thailand's veto of Cambodia's unilateral listing of the Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site was unsuccessful," he said.

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