Hun Sen's temple comments 'retaliation', says PM

By The Nation
Published on September 30, 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday hit out at his Cambodian counterpart, Hun Sen, for saying Thai trespassers would be shot if they entered into an area along the common border disputed by the two countries.

"Whenever he gives interviews to the foreign media he always has this attitude where he wants to make headlines," Abhisit told reporters yesterday, one day after Hun Sen made the challenging statement.

Hun Sen said on Monday he had ordered his troops to shoot anyone from neighbouring Thailand who crossed onto land around the 11th century Preah Vihear temple.

Hun Sen's comments came about a week after hundreds of People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) rallied near the temple area, demanding Thai troops take back the 4.6 square kilometre overlapping claimed areas near the ancient temple.

This heavily militarised area was the site of clashes that have killed seven soldiers since tensions flared last year. Abhisit suspected Hun Sen's statement was to "retaliate" for the September 19 protest.

However, the Thai prime minister maintained that Thailand is committed to finding a peaceful solution to the dispute through the joint border commission set up by the two countries.

Cambodia and Thailand have been at loggerheads over the land around Preah Vihear for decades, but tensions spilled into violence last July when leaders on both sides politicised the dispute.

Abhisit confirmed the issue was raised with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the UN General Assembly in New York last week.

Government deputy secretary-general, Panitan Wattanayagorn, blamed Unesco for heightening the tension by granting the temple a World Heritage status at a time when political crisis was still boiling.

"This is the nature of small countries when dealing with a bigger partner," said Panitan, comparing Cambodia's relations with Thailand to that of Venezuela to the United States.

Abhisit urged the public not to let Hun Sen's statement get the better of them.

Army chief, General Anupong Paochinda declined to comment, saying border issues should be the responsibility of the Thai-Cambodian Joint Commission for the Demarcation of Land Boundaries.

He said the two countries have agreed in principle that force would not be used. Thai troops on the border, however, said Cambodian troops were laying fresh landmines along the disputed areas and close to routes where they make regular patrols.

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