THE top border negotiators from Cambodia and Thailand met in Phnom Penh yesterday, pledging to speed up the protracted demarcation process despite the tensions between the two countries.
Asda Jayanama, a career diplomat and Thailand’s new chairman of the bilateral Joint Border Committee, joined Cambodian counterpart Var Kimhong for a meeting at the Council of Ministers, pledging to carry forward the oft-delayed work of the committee.
JBC talks have been stalled since 2009 pending approval of the latest round of negotiations in the Thai parliament. This approval was delayed again earlier in November when, in lieu of a vote, Thai lawmakers set up a committee to study the negotiations and report back to the parliament within 90 days.
“This border committee has to continue. It is something necessary for the benefit of both Cambodia and Thailand,” Asda, a former ambassador to the United Nations, said yesterday. “In whatever form, I think it is necessary for us to exist.”
One member of the Thai parliamentary committee reviewing the JBC agreements, the Bangkok Post reported, is Panich Vikitsreth, a lawmaker from Thailand’s ruling Democrat Party who was arrested in Banteay Meanchey province last month for trespassing on Cambodian territory. Panich was arrested along with six other Thais who joined him on the expedition to “investigate” the border demarcation process.
The group have been charged with illegal entry and unlawfully entering a military base, charges that carry a combined maximum sentence of 18 months in prison. Two members of the group were also charged this week with collecting information that may damage national defence, a charge carrying a possible 10-year sentence.
Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva has admitted dispatching Panich to the border area, but says he did not order the MP to cross into Cambodia. A trial date has yet to be set in the case.
Although fresh JBC talks are off the table for the moment, Var Kimhong said yesterday that he had proposed that the JBC dispatch a technical team to plant border markers 1-23, already approved by the committee, along the border of Oddar Meanchey and Preah Vihear provinces. Asda said he would check with officials in Bangkok to see whether this project could be undertaken without parliamentary approval.
Asda replaces former Thai border negotiator Vasin Teeravechyan, who stepped down in November.
During the most recent JBC and foreign ministerial talks, 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.
Thai man arrested at border
Also yesterday, a 78-year-old Thai national was arrested in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet town for allegedly illegally entering Cambodia.
“This old Thai man came to play games at the casinos in Poipet and he entered Cambodia without the legal documents,” said Men Sarom, Poipet military police chief.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA