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Love thy neighbor

A SENIOR Thai military delegation will arrive in Phnom Penh next week, Cambodian officials said yesterday, pointing to the trip as a sign of improving ties between the countries.

Thai Lieutenant Generals Niphat Thonglek and Thawatchai Samutsakhon will lead a group set to arrive in the capital on Monday for a three-day visit in which they will meet with senior commanders from the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, said Touch Ra, deputy chief of the Thai-Cambodian Border Relations Office at the Choam international border gate in Oddar Meanchey province.

“Their visit is strengthening friendship and cooperation between the armed forces of Cambodia and Thailand,” Touch Ra said. “The prime ministers of Thailand and Cambodia have embraced each other, so the lower-level officials will do the same thing.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen and Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva have held face-to-face talks twice in recent weeks, first in New York and then in Belgium earlier this month. Their meetings followed the August resignation of ousted former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra from his position as economics adviser to the Cambodian government, a tenure that provoked the ire of his bitter rivals in the Abhisit administration.

Thawatchai spoke out last week against claims from the Thai Department of Special Investigation that a group of antigovernment Red Shirt protesters reportedly arrested in Thailand earlier this month had received weapons training in Cambodia. He chided the DSI for airing the allegations publicly rather than through diplomatic channels.

“The best way to approach an issue which could lead to friction is not to mention other countries,” Thawatchai said, according to the Bangkok Post. Thai leaders have since backed away from the allegations, saying they will wait for the final report from the DSI before consulting Cambodia regarding its contents.

Chea Morn, the commander of RCAF Region 4, said the Thai delegation would meet RCAF deputy commander-in-chief Chea Dara and Division 3 commander Srey Doek, whose forces are stationed near the Thai-Cambodian border.

Thai Army deputy spokesman Veerachon Sukondhadhpatipak said that he had no information on the visit.



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