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Thai lawmakers delay border vote

THAILAND’S parliament discussed the country’s latest round of border negotiations with Cambodia yesterday, though a final vote of approval on the matter was delayed until next week, Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said.

Negotiations on border demarcation have been stalled since last year pending the Thai parliament’s approval of agreements of the bilateral Joint Border Committee. Bangkok has repeatedly delayed the parliamentary vote, most recently in August, prompting allegations of delay tactics from Cambodian officials.

“The agreed minutes of the JBC was tabled in parliament and was discussed. However, as there was not enough time, the meeting was adjourned,” Thani said. “The session will continue next week.”

At the previous three JBC and foreign minister meetings, Thailand and Cambodia agreed to undertake joint demining and demarcation projects along the border near Preah Vihear temple, and to redeploy troops in the area in a bid to ease tensions.

Senior minister Var Kimhong, the government’s top border negotiator, said he would wait to see Thailand approve the JBC agreements before moving forward with further talks.

“I will wait to see until the approval is done,” Var Kimhong said. “They have played games like this before.”

Also yesterday, the Bangkok Post reported that Thai fugitive and antigovernment activist Arisman Pongruengrong had applied for a Cambodian visa at a consulate in Thailand’s Sa Kaeo province. Citing “informed sources”, the newspaper said Arisman was hiding in Siem Reap province and had hired someone to file the visa application on his behalf.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva reportedly said he had already talked to Prime Minister Hun Sen about Arisman’s extradition.

“We have enough information and evidence that Mr Arisman is in Cambodia,” Abhisit said, according to the Bangkok Post. “The issue of Mr Arisman’s extradition will not create conflict between Thailand and Cambodia.”

Cambodian officials, however, have denied repeated reports in the Thai media that Arisman has taken refuge in the Kingdom. “We have already rejected the reports that Arisman is in Cambodia,” Koy Kuong said yesterday, and added that he had received no information about the Red Shirt leader’s alleged visa application.

Arisman faces terrorism charges at home in Thailand – which carry a maximum penalty of death – in connection with antigovernment protests earlier this year that left 90 people dead and more than 2,000 injured after Red Shirt activists clashed with soldiers and police.

Arisman was cornered in a Bangkok hotel by Thai security forces during protests in April, but he escaped in dramatic fashion by lowering himself by rope out of a third-storey window and fleeing to safety.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE

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