Bilateral talks between Cambodia and Thailand are set to resume in a fortnight, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced yesterday, following the end of a period of “nightmare cooperation” between the two nations.
The premier, speaking in Phnom Penh yesterday, said military commanders from both sides were due to take part in negotiations – under a new Regional Border Committee – on August 24 and 25 to discuss troop withdrawals from the area around Preah Vihear temple.
The negotiations, he said, would pave the way for both the deployment of unarmed Indonesian observers and troop withdrawals from a demilitarised zone created by the International Court of Justice in July.
The ruling by the United Nations’ highest court that created the zone followed deadly border clashes between the two countries earlier this year.
“I declare a new era of cooperation between the government of Cambodia now that Thailand is ruled by the Puea Thai Party. What was going on in the last few years, I considered as nightmare cooperation between the two countries that is now over,” said Hun Sen.
“Now, we have to start negotiations at a bilateral level in order to ease the tension.”
Hun Sen added that he had suggested to Defence Minister Tea Banh and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong on Wednesday that they communicate with their Thai counterparts to set up a long-awaited General Border Commission meeting.
The RBC – which will see commanders form Thailand’s Division 2 and Cambodia’s Divison 4 meet in Thailand’s Nakhon Ratchasima province – follows weeks of warming diplomatic relations since Yingluck Shinawatra was elected to office last month, ousting Abhisit Vejjajiva.
Yingluck is the sister of former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is a former economic advisor to Cambodia.
Both Hun Sen and Hor Namhong have written letters to their Thai counterparts expressing their support for a renewed ties between the two peoples.
But not only ministers are considering their links with Thailand.
Yesterday Neang Path, secretary of state at Cambodia’s Ministry of Defence and head of the secretariat of GBC, and Hun Sen’s son Hun Maneth, deputy commander of armed forces infantry at the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, took part in a closed-door meeting to discuss how to improve military relationships.
Chhum Socheat, the spokesman at the Ministry of Defence, said the meeting was in preparation for the upcoming meeting in Thailand.
“We had just worked to prepare for the upcoming meeting of the RBC and find ways to restore a good military relationship to build peace at the border,” he said.
Thai officials could not be reached yesterday, but Thai Defence Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa was quoted in the Bangkok Post as saying: “To be in a win-win situation, we have to be friends.
“Gen Tea Banh and I are old friends. We frequently talked at meetings abroad when I was permanent secretary for defence and deputy defence minister.”