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Bangkok probes payout claim

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Thai FM says Thailand investigating Cambodian compensation demands following the destruction of market in border clashes.

Photo by:
SOVANN PHILONG

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, speaking to reporters during a reception at the Thai ambassador's residence Thursday. 

THE Thai government is in the process of investigating Cambodian requests for compensation following recent border skirmishes near Preah Vihear temple, according to Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya.

"I have already received the diplomatic notice from Cambodia and ordered involved institutions to investigate on this issue," he told reporters at the Thai ambassador's residence Thursday.

On May 11, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a diplomatic note to Thailand demanding US$2.1 million in compensation for the market near Preah Vihear temple, destroyed when clashes broke out on April 3. The government blames Thai rocket fire for the blaze, which engulfed 264 stalls.

Previously, Kasit was quoted in quoted by the Bangkok-based newspaper The Nation as rejecting the Cambodian claims, arguing the buildings sat on Thai territory and were destroyed in a legitimate military engagement.

But he indicated Thursday that the Thais would reassess the issue.

  ...WE WOULD LIKE TO FORGE AND INTENSIFY BILATERAL COOPERATION IN EVERY WAY.

"First we have to look at the market, where it is situated, and the damage ... caused from the gunfire between Cambodian and Thai soldiers," he said.

But Moeung Sonn, president of the Khmer Civilisation Foundation, a local NGO that has lobbied for compensation from the Thai government, said that more than 300 Cambodians had lost their homes and livelihoods, regardless of where the market was situated.

"We have demanded damage compensation. We aren't talking about where the market was situated, but are focusing on the properties destroyed by the Thai soldiers," he said Sunday.

In a May 6 report on the border incident, the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights argued that the Thai action served no reasonable military function and that senior Thai leaders could be guilty of violating international law.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said Kasit's announcement was welcome since the country had a basic obligation to investigate the Cambodian claims, but did not comment further.

"No one can get away from their obligations under international law," he said.

In response to suggestions that domestic political turbulence had complicated Thai stances on border issues, Kasit said Bangkok was serious about resolving border conflicts, which would move forward on a "technical" basis free from political interference.

"[W]e have proven to the Thai public and also to the international community - especially to the neighbouring countries - that we are a serious government and that we would like to forge and intensify bilateral cooperation in every way," he said.

"I would like my Cambodian friends to rest assured [about] the sense of purpose and seriousness on our part to push the relationship forward."

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