Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will seek to resolve a spate of long running disputes with Cambodia over oil reserves, the Preah Vihear border and the imprisonment of two Thai nationals for spying after arriving in Phnom Penh today, a spokesman has said.
Conflicting reports circulated through the media and government channels from both countries yesterday, suggesting jailed Thai pair Veera Somkwamkid and Ratree Pipattanapaiboon would be pardoned from Cambodian prison terms when Yingluck arrived.
Thai government spokeswoman Titima Chaisang said yesterday this was news to the Thai PM’s delegation, but confirmed a range of agenda items that would be discussed during her visit with Prime Minister Hun Sen.
A key agenda item, she said, would be disputed oil and natural gas deposits in a 27,000 square kilometre Overlapping Claim Area in the Gulf of Thailand.
“This is a hot issue – the declarations Cambodia has shown us a couple of weeks ago about the oil,” Titima Chaisang said, but did not elaborate on details of any such documents.
“The secret meeting between Sok An and former Thai deputy prime minister [Suthep Thaugsuban] – we need to prepare for this topic also if they raise this one,” she said, referring to a series of talks the pair reportedly had about the OCA.
She said the Yingluck administration was examining the constitutional legality of a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2001 between the neighbouring countries on the OCA that was cancelled by ousted Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in 2009.
Abhisit cancelled the MoU in protest over Cambodia’s decision to appoint his political opponent, fugitive former Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra, as an economic advisor.
Yingluck would also discuss facilitating the removal of troops from an International Court of Justice demarcated demilitarised zone around the disputed Preah Vihear temple area and the fate of imprisoned Thai nationals Veera Somkwamkid and Ratree Pipattanapaiboon.
The two yellow shirt nationalists were handed eight and six year sentences respectively by a Cambodian court in January last year for spying.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said yesterday a report in The Nation newspaper claiming the pair would be released today was completely untrue.
“It is baseless information. It is fabrication. It is not real information. I saw this news on The Nation online, but I don’t know where this newspaper got this information,” he said.
The Bangkok Post reported yesterday that Yingluck had also denied any release of prisoners would take place.
Titima Chaisang said Yingluck would try and lobby on behalf of the pair as she would any other Thai citizen, but respected the authority of the Cambodian judicial system.
Thailand was also keen to develop investment opportunities in the area of Preah Vihear and would push to find a way to get its troops out of the DMZ near Preah Vihear so that agreed ASEAN border observers could enter and further the peace process.
An unfortunate prelude to Yingluck’s visit was apparently averted on Tuesday when Thai troops reportedly attempted to cross a barbed wire fence near Ta Moan temple in Oddar Meanchey province, near the border.
May Mao, the deputy commander of military region 41 near Ta Moan temple, said yesterday the situation had been mollified without any shots being fired after dozens of Thai troops were pushed back by Cambodian forces.
“The Thai soldiers decided not the cross the wire fence after they were prevented by Cambodian soldiers, thus the military situation has returned to normal,” he said.
Sunisa Lert, an assistant to Thailand’s Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel Thanatip Sawangsaeng, denied any incident had occurred on the border.
Cambodian Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said Cambodia had an agenda for talks tomorrow with Yingluck, but he was unable to elaborate on what that agenda was.
Yingluck’s brother Thaksin is scheduled to arrive in Phnom Penh on the following day.