Sunday, September 7, 2008

Border talks with Cambodia to go ahead next month


ACHARA ASHAYABorder talks with Cambodia to go ahead next monthGACHAT
Foreign Minister-designate Saroj Chavanaviraj has pledged to keep trying to mend ties with Cambodia and do his best to chair the Association of Southeast Asean Nations (Asean) meeting. Mr Saroj, 66, who said he would not give any formal interviews until his appointment is royally endorsed, stressed that he was committed to following the Thai-Cambodia meeting timeframe of the Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary (JBC).
Under the timeframe, agreed upon between his predecessor Tej Bunnag and the Cambodian foreign minister on Aug 19, both ministers would meet next month after the reduction of troops on the border near the Preah Vihear temple was completed.
Chairing the regional grouping would also be another main duty of the retired diplomat.
He said he would do his best in his new job.
Meanwhile, the commander-designate of the Second Army, Wiboonsak Neeparn, who is also the co-chair of the Thai-Cambodian Border Committee, said the political turmoil in Bangkok could be one of the reasons behind the indefinite postponement of the RBC meeting, which was to discuss the second phase of the troop redeployment in the controversial area around the Preah Vihear temple.
The meeting was to have taken place on Aug 29. Lt-Gen Wiboonsak conceded that Cambodia may not want to hold talks until the political conflict is resolved.
Another reason, he said, was the reshuffle and promotions within the Thai army. He will officially take over the post of Second Army commander on Oct 1.
Lt-Gen Wiboonsak stressed that both countries must honour the basic principle of the military reduction on equal terms.
Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said Cambodia would withdraw all its military personnel from around the temple, which was listed as a World Heritage site on July 8, and install policemen instead.
Cambodia still has about 500 soldiers around the eastern side of the Preah Vihear foothill, while Thailand has deployed about 300 soldiers on the western side of the hill.
Foreign Ministry officials, however, predicted that progress in the Thai-Cambodian talks might not be as satisfactory as many would have hoped amid the political instability in Thailand.
The interim agreement to resolve the Preah Vihear border issues, which has to be endorsed by parliament to comply with the law on treaties, has not gone on the agenda of the cabinet meeting.
The interim agreement, prepared by the ministry with approval from the Cambodian side at a meeting in the resort town of Cha-am last month, was to provide a legal platform for officials to discuss the issues related to the border survey and demarcation under the terms of reference and master plan of the initial JBC agreement.

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