Hun Sen accuses top Thai leaders of using dispute over land for political gain.
PRIME Minister Hun Sen on Monday condemned recent statements by Thai officials challenging Cambodia’s claim to land near Preah Vihear temple and accused Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of milking the border dispute for political advantage.
“I suggest that the Thai political leaders stop using the border issue in their own political affairs,” Hun Sen said during the opening of the new Ministry of Tourism building, located near the recently evicted Borei Keila community.
The premier’s comments came four days after Suthep Thaugsuban, the Thai deputy prime minister in charge of security, was quoted in the Bangkok Post as saying that roads built near the temple by previous Cambodian governments did not necessarily belong to Cambodia. The Council of Ministers issued a statement Friday summarily rejecting his remarks.
In his speech, Hun Sen described recent statements by Thai officials about the disputed border territory as offensive.
“The claims from the Thai prime minister, deputy prime minister and other ministers on land around the temple are not acceptable,” he said.
“Cambodia will not recognise them. We will only recognise the maps left from the French era.”
Hun Sen also issued a warning to Thai protesters who might again try to approach Preah Vihear temple.
“I would like to stress that Preah Vihear temple is not like the Council of Ministers in Bangkok, and it is not like the Don Mueang or Suvarnabhumi airports that allow occupation by the Yellow Shirts,” he said, referencing sites that have been occupied in various Thai political protests.
Hun Sen also accused officials working at checkpoints along the Cambodian-Thai frontier – especially those at the Poipet border crossing – of illegally taxing people who crossed the border daily for business reasons.
“The Poipet checkpoint has many issues. Now they are charging people who are trying to cart things over the border.Governor, take a look. The police and money-collectors, are they real police and customs officials?” he asked.
He said the issue was significant, despite the fact that it was probably affecting only a small number of people.
He went on to describe efforts to reform the border crossings as part of the government’s broader anticorruption fight.
“If any [government] units are acting illegally, then we must take action,” he said.
“That is the point of fighting corruption. We will create opportunities for people to earn more income.”
Ung Oeun, governor of Banteay Meanchey province, could not be reached for comment Monday.
Poipet Governor Try Narin said he would convene a meeting Tuesday to address the issue. He said individuals crossing the border with few possessions should not be taxed, but added that, as far as he knew, it was standard practice to tax people pulling carts.
“But Samdech is upset about the payments, and he says it is illegal,” he said. “So whatever [Hun Sen] says, I agree.”