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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Positive move for border talks

Positive move for border talks

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Thai Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Suwit Khunkitti has reportedly left his position as head of Thai delegations to border talks.

The Thai government says parliamentary approval is no longer required for a set of border demarcation agreements with Cambodia, paving the way for talks that have been stalled since 2009 to move forward and earning cautious approval from Kingdom officials.

Thailand’s parliament voted 240-12 in favour of the move, the Bangkok Post reported yesterday.

The decision means that three agreements made in 2008 and 2009  at meetings of Thailand and Cambodia’s bilateral Joint Border Committee meetings no longer have to be approved by lawmakers.

Var Kimhong, Cambodia’s senior minister in charge of border affairs, tentatively welcomed the vote yesterday.

“If it is true that the agree minutes no longer need to pass the Thai parliament, then it is good,” said Var Kimhong, who also chairs the border committee meetings. “However, we have to wait and see.”

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, added that even thought the vote had been passed he was concerned about future setbacks.

“If they are willing to do it, we can proceed to work as agreed … but there might be another obstacle to cause the process to stall,” he said.

The vote came as a shake-up of Thai officials dealing with border affairs was reported.

The Nation, citing an unnamed source, reported that Thailand’s Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Suwit Khunkitti, had resigned from his position as head of the Thai delegation to the bilateral and international negotiations over Preah Vihear Temple.

Current JBC chair Assada Chainam is set to replace him, the newspaper said.

However the Bangkok Post, quoting Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, yesterday reported that Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva wanted Suwit to continue working as the government’s chief negotiator on temple issues.

The World Heritage Committee of UNESCO is scheduled to hold a meeting over management and conservation of Preah Vihear in Bahrain this June.

A May meeting at UNESCO headquarters in Paris will explore means of conserving the temple following deadly clashes between Thai and Cambodian troops in February near the 11th-century site.

Hang Soth, director general of the Preah Vihear National Authority, said that Cambodian officials, led by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, were ready for the meetings regardless of any changes to the Thai delegation.

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