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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thailand non-committal to joining proposed border meeting with Cambodia: FM

By Sinfah Tunsarawuth

BANGKOK, March 10 (Xinhua) -- Thailand has been non-committal to joining meetings with Cambodia later this month as proposed by Indonesia to discuss the two countries' border dispute, according to a Thai Foreign Ministry statement.

Meanwhile, the nationalistic "yellow-shirt" People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) on Thursday submitted a letter to the Indonesian ambassador in Bangkok in protesting against a planned Indonesian observer mission to the Thai-Cambodian disputed border.

PAD said in the letter that the coming of the Indonesian observers would amount to "a foreign military operation to control Thai military operations defending Thai sovereignty, which has been deliberately violated by Cambodia."

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, the current ASEAN chair, has proposed that Thailand and Cambodia meet later this month to solve their border dispute under the existing General Border Committee (GBC), co-chaired by the defense ministers of both nations, and separately under Thai-Cambodian Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary (JBC), co-chaired by the two countries' senior officials, according to media reports.

Natalegawa made the proposal in a letter sent on Wednesday to Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and other ASEAN foreign ministers. The GBC and JBC meetings were proposed on March 24-25 in Bogor, Indonesia.

Natalegawa also said in the letter that Cambodia has responded positively to the Terms of Reference (TOR) in sending the Indonesian observers.

"I am looking forward to hearing positive responses from Thailand," he was quoted as saying in his letter.

The sending of Indonesian observers was a result of the informal meeting of foreign ministers of the Association of South East Asian Nations on Feb. 22 in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said in the statement on Thursday that: "Thailand welcomes Cambodia's readiness to attend the said meetings as it has all along been trying to convene bilateral negotiations with Cambodia."

Thani said the proposed GBC meeting would allow the two countries to discuss the TOR of the Indonesian observers.

However, he said in regard to the GBC meeting, "details with regard to the dates, venue and appropriate engagement of Indonesia remain matters to be discussed further."

He continued: "It is noted that at this juncture Cambodia has proposed that Indonesia attend the opening ceremony, and that, after the conclusion of the said meeting, both countries would share its outcome with Indonesia."

For the JBC meeting, Thani said Thailand had wanted to hold such a meeting in February "a proposal which Cambodia had first agreed to in principle before subsequently changing its position."

He continued: "However, it had been the Cambodian side which maintained that the three draft agreed minutes of the previous JBC meetings be approved by the Thai Parliament first before the said meeting could be convened."

A joint sitting of the House of Representatives and Senate is expected to deliberate and vote on the three draft minutes, seen as agreements that could affect Thai territory, later this month.

Thani's statement did not say clearly whether Thailand was prepared to join the GBC and JBC meetings on March 24-25 in Bogor.

PAD, which has been protesting against the government on its alleged mishandling of the Thai-Cambodian border dispute since Jan. 25, said in its letter to the Indonesian ambassador that the proposed sending of the Indonesian observers would not comply with the bilateral arrangement of Thailand and Cambodia on solving the border dispute, which is involved with a 4.6-square kilometer piece of land around the Preah Vihear temple.

The PAD letter also said the TOR of Indonesian observers could be seen as an agreement that would alter Thailand's sovereign border and, hence, require an approval from the bicameral parliament first.

In launching its rally in January, PAD wanted the Thai government to scrap the existing memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between Thailand and Cambodia in 2000 as the framework for settling the two countries' border dispute.

They also urged the government to move out Cambodians who are occupying the disputed areas, and to pull out as a party to the World Heritage Convention, under which the Preah Vihear temple was enlisted as a World Heritage site by Cambodia in July 2008.

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Thai embassy in Phnom Penh seeks Veera's signature for royal pardon petition

BANGKOK, March 10 - The Thai embassy in Phnom Penh will ask two Thai Patriots Network activists convicted and detained for espionage to endorse the letters seeking royal pardon for them from the Cambodian monarch on Friday, the secretary to the Thai foreign minister said today.

Chavanond Intarakomalayasut, secretary to the Thai foreign minister, disclosed the information after the mother of Veera Somkwamkid met with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva Wednesday seeking the government’s help to secure the release of her son. She said Mr Veera was "seriously ill" while serving jail sentence in Preysar Prison as he has not been given appropriate medical treatment and nutrition.

Mr Veera and his secretary Ratree Pipattanapaiboon were convicted by a Cambodian court on Feb 1 for espionage, illegal entry, and trespassing in a military zone. The 53-year-old activist was sentenced to an eight-year jail term while Ms Ratree was handed a six-year jail term.

Mr Chavanond said the lawyers of Mr Veera and Ms Ratree have finished drafting the royal pardon documents in the Cambodian language and forwarded them to the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh for translation into Thai.

Embassy officials will bring the letters to the two detainees on Friday so that they could read the details and endorse the papers.

The embassy would be able to send the royal pardon letters to the Cambodian foreign ministry within next week, said Mr Chavanond, adding that the Cambodian ministry will have to forward the letters to the Justice Ministry and then the Cambodia's Office of the Prime Minister.

Following recommendations regarding a prisoner exchange, the secretary stated the foreign ministry already considered that approach but later learned that such transfers do not cover national security cases and that both Mr Veera and Ms Ratree must first serve at least one-third of their jail time.

"Moreover, with the prisoner exchange, they would also have to [continue] imprisonment in Thailand," said Mr Chavanond. "So the ministry advised them to seek a royal pardon, an option which can proceed immediately. The two detainees agreed with the idea and have signed documents expressing their will to use such as approach."

Mr Chavanond added that he will visit Phnom Penh seeking to take Mr Veera from jail for medical treatment and is now awaiting a reply from the Cambodian authorities whether they will allow him to visit the convicts.

The prime minister asserted Thursday that Mr Veera's health problem is a cause of concern for his government, and that seeking a royal pardon is the better option to help them. (MCOT online news)

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