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Ball in Thai court

Dear Sir,

L ast month Thai Premier Chuan Leekpai said that Cambodia was looking for a scapegoat in Thailand for detaining the 14 Thais suspected of involvement in the aborted coup of 2-3 July 1994. He did not act like a statesman. He did not bother to check the facts and wait for the investigations made by the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC).

To avoid any misconception and misunderstanding between Cambodia and Thailand, Sar Kheng and You Hockry, Co-Ministers of the Interior, asked the local press to refrain from making any unfounded accusations concerning Thailand's role in the coup, during their declarations to the press on July 9, 1994.

Today it seems that at least one of the 14 Thais had confessed of his involvement according to the RGC. But it is also the responsibility of the RGC to promise Thailand of legal representation for the accused and fairness of the trial. They are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

In return it is Thailand's turn to prove its sincerity regarding its dealing with the Khmer Rouge problem. Thailand must do what it says when it declared that it supported the RGC's bill to outlaw the Khmer Rouge. It must cooperate with the RGC in prohibiting the Khmer Rouge to travel through its territory, and in fulfilling the RGC's request to freeze all Khmer Rouge assets.

The world is watching. If Thailand does not comply with the RGC's appeal for cooperation regarding the Khmer Rouge, the Thai government is making a fool out of itself. The ball is now in Thailand's court.

Another matter of importance is the call for military aid made by the RGC. If Thailand disagrees with providing military assistance to Cambodia, it should not lobby with the international community against such aid although it claimed it only expressed its opinion when asked by some countries. This becomes Cambodia's internal affairs interference by Thailand. It cannot be acceptable. It seems that Thailand is preparing to make some policy changes toward Cambodia. We will see.

To compound the strain relationship between Cambodia and Thailand, USAID was very insensitive when it awarded the rehabilitation of national Route 4 to Fishbach International which has no experience in road building and in turn subcontracts 75 percent of the work to Ital-Thai construction firm. The American firms that teamed up with Cambodian contractors lost out the bid.

The objective of the American aid to Cambodia is supposed to stimulate the Khmer economy through the employment of local contractors and workers. Cambodia does not fish. What Cambodia needs is the know-how to make a fishing pole. If the US only provides the fish with the Thai expertise, when will Cambodia be able to learn? When will Cambodia know how to do it by itself? Cambodia wants the US to help her become proficient and effective as it did for Thailand in the 60's

If Thailand truly cares for Cambodia and believes that the latter needs to pacify the country in order to recover from more than two decades of war and poverty, it should propose ways to stop the Khmer Rouge, cooperate with the RGC, and respect the will of the Khmer people.

- Hann So, Khmer Conscience

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