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ASEAN FMs to meet in VN

ASEAN FMs to meet in VN

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ASEAN foreign ministers at the start of a meeting in Phuket, Thailand, in July.

MINISTER of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong is to join Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and the rest of his ASEAN counterparts at the regional bloc’s Foreign Ministers’ Retreat in Vietnam on Wednesday and Thursday, as tension continues to simmer between the two countries.

Hor Namhong and Kasit will also join each other on Saturday and Sunday at the Foreign Ministerial Meeting of the Forum for East Asia-Latin America Cooperation in Tokyo, though Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said there were no plans for a bilateral meeting of the two in the near future.

“There is no meeting scheduled between Hor Namhong and Kasit Piromya in the meetings in Vietnam or Japan,” Koy Kuong said. “Cambodia maintains its stance that it would like to have good relations with Thailand, but the solution is that Thailand returns its ambassador back to Cambodia.”

Thailand withdrew its ambassador to Cambodia in November in protest of the Kingdom’s appointment of fugitive former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as a government economic adviser. Cambodia responded by withdrawing its ambassador to Thailand shortly thereafter.

Though Thailand has said that the revocation of Thaksin’s appointment is a prerequisite to normalising relations, Hor Namhong stated Monday that this was impossible.

“It is the sovereign right of Cambodia. Thailand has no right to interfere in this issue,” Hor Namhong said, adding: “The appointment was made by the King’s Royal decree. We cannot revoke as Kasit Piromya has demanded.”

Thai ministry of foreign affairs deputy spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said the meetings in Vietnam would be confined to issues “within the ASEAN framework”. Thailand has maintained that its dispute with Cambodia is a bilateral issue that should not be settled in an international forum.

“This is a meeting which will discuss ASEAN’s progress toward becoming a community by 2015,” Thani said, declining to comment on whether the ongoing spat with Cambodia jeopardises that progress.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said last month that Thailand’s focus on Thaksin’s appointment has obscured a more significant conflict between the two countries – the disagreement over the border area near Preah Vihear temple, where military clashes have left seven soldiers dead since 2008.

“You accuse us of abusing the Thai justice system, but you forget to mention that you are invading Cambodian territory,” Hun Sen said.

Last week, Cambodia’s deputy foreign minister, Long Visalo, visited the Laotian capital of Vientiane, where he lectured around 200 officials on the history of Preah Vihear temple and the attendant border dispute between Cambodia and Thailand. Koy Koung said that this lecture came at the request of Lao officials, and that Cambodia had no plans to plead its case internationally without invitation.

“Cambodia is not advertising the border issue and the Preah Vihear temple case to other countries. Laos wanted to know the real situation from the Cambodian side on the issue because they only heard from the Thai side previously,” Koy Kuong said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

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