THAI Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday rejected claims that Thailand would forcibly seize control of contested areas along the border with Cambodia, after Prime Minister Hun Sen wrote to the United Nations Security Council on Sunday.
In his letters to the Security Council and General Assembly, Hun Sen denounced comments by Abhisit during a Yellow Shirt rally on Saturday, when he reportedly said he would “use both democratic and military means” to protect Thai sovereignty.
In a speech Monday, Hun Sen said existing bilateral negotiations had failed, and he called for an international conference to resolve the conflict.
In a letter to Security Council President Vitaly Churkin on Tuesday, Abhisit said the comments in Hun Sen’s letter were “misquoted, taken out of context and misunderstood”.
He also said Thailand was committed to solving the dispute through a memorandum of understanding signed by the two countries in 2000, and rejected claims that it would use force. “Thailand believes that only by working together on the basis of friendship and good neighbourliness can Thailand and Cambodia overcome the current differences for the benefits of the two countries and peoples,” he said.
Also Tuesday, Abhisit demanded that Cambodians leave disputed areas along the border, and blamed them for triggering the standoff.
Both countries claim a 4.6-square kilometre area adjacent to Preah Vihear temple, which was awarded to Cambodia by a 1962 ruling from the International Court of Justice.
The current standoff began in July 2008, when Preah Vihear won recognition as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural OrganisationWorld Heritage site, stirring nationalist unrest in Thailand.
The Council of Ministers issued a statement yesterday dismissing Abhisit’s response, noting that his comments were widely reported in the Thai media and saying that if they were wrong, they should have been corrected.
“Mr Abhisit, by his own account, has demonstrated the total lack of credibility of the Thai media,” the statement said. “In the meantime, if the Thai media is correct, it proves this fact that Mr Abhisit is a liar, a rogue with a very sophisticated, manipulative mind.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said Abhisit’s backtracking was evidence of a “bad habit” plaguing the current Thai leadership. “I think the explanation of Abhisit to the UN looks like a robber pretending to be a victim,” he said.
The Council of Ministers said it would push for a more international solution rather than bilateral talks, which it called “a scheme to use Cambodia as Thailand’s political hostage in the indefinite political squabble inside Thailand”.
It said that Thailand’s use of a “unilateral and not internationally recognised” map to back up its border claims recalled the strategies of Nazi Germany and fascist Italy.
The two countries also agreed yesterday to postpone an upcoming General Border Commission meeting, scheduled for August 27-28 in Bangkok. Yesterday, Thailand’s defence spokesman Thanathip Sawangsaeng said Cambodia had requested an indefinite postponement of the meeting.
But Chhum Socheat said Thai Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan phoned Defence Minister Tea Banh, saying that “the time for the discussion is not appropriate”.
In any case, he said, Cambodia would not be taking part in one-on-one talks with Thailand following Hun Sen’s call for an international conference.
“Based on the speech of Prime Minister Hun Sen, bilateral talks with Thailand have had no result. We have to obey our leader’s recommendation, and we don’t want to talk with them bilaterally,” he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP AND THE BANGKOK POST