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Talks with Thai PM floated

PRIME Minister Hun Sen is ready to hold bilateral talks with Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva during a conference the two will attend in October, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.

Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said ASEAN secretary general Surin Pitsuwan raised the prospect of talks between the two leaders to address the countries’ ongoing border dispute during a visit to the Kingdom earlier this week. Both Hun Sen and Abhisit are scheduled to attend the Asia-Europe Meeting in Belgium this October.

“Surin asked Samdech [Hun Sen] if he would agree to meet Abhisit and discuss [the dispute] at the meeting in Brussels,” Koy Kuong said.

“Samdech stressed that he would agree to this meeting if Abhisit did, though so far there has been no confirmation that the meeting between the two will be held.”

During a layover in Bangkok on his way back to the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta, Surin told the Bangkok Post he was confident that the talks over the border dispute would go forward.

“I expect the two leaders to meet and discuss the issue,” Surin said.

Koy Kuong said that if the talks in Brussels did take place, they would occur without a third party. Thailand has said it opposes talks in any forum other than a bilateral one.

A report in Thai state media yesterday said Abhisit had “reiterate[d] the stance of Thailand again to solve the row in bilateral manner if asked”.

The Oxford-educated prime minister also “stressed the intention of the Thai Government once again to have the controversial Preah Vihear dispute solved with Cambodia in [a] bilateral manner without any intervention of ASEAN”, the report stated.

ASEAN chair Vietnam said this week that it was considering mediating in the dispute, pending consultations with other members of the 10-nation bloc. Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong wrote to the Vietnamese last week in a bid to secure ASEAN intervention in the border dispute, warning that it could lead to “large-scale armed conflict”.

On Wednesday, the Thai government announced that it had delayed a parliamentary vote to approve the latest round of border negotiations with Cambodia, leading officials to charge that Thailand was uninterested in resolving the dispute in any forum.

Chea Morn, commander of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Military Region 4, said yesterday that the tension between the two countries had not manifested itself along the border.

Shots heard along the border near Oddar Meanchey province on Wednesday were fired by Thai soldiers who were attempting to scare away loggers from their territory, he said.

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