Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - PM promises not to 'wage war' on Thais

PM promises not to 'wage war' on Thais

PM promises not to 'wage war' on Thais

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Hun Sen calls for calm on the border as Foreign Minister Hor Namhong accuses the Thais of submitting groundless complaints

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HENG CHIVOAN

Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong speaks to reporters after a meeting Thursday with Thailand's ambassador at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

PRIME Minister Hun Sen announced Thursday that Cambodia will not wage war with neighbouring Thailand over its ongoing border dispute, but said the country will be ready to defend itself if necessary.

"We do not want to have fighting. We just want peace and do not want other countries to invade us," Hun Sen said during a ceremony at the National Institute of Education.

"We want to avoid war, and we are now avoiding conflict all along the border. We have opened the door for discussion and a reduction in the military presence."

Tensions have eased since October 15, when gunfights along the border left three Cambodians and one Thai dead, but Hun Sen said Cambodia would act in "self-defence" if required.

The border dispute has been simmering since July, when Unesco approved the listing of Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site, triggering a troop buildup on both sides.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong also said Thursday the Thais had submitted a series of complaints to the Cambodian government in November, but that all of them had lacked legal grounds.

The complaints relate to the construction of buildings near the Poipet border crossing, the posting of Unesco flags and signs at the hotly-disputed Preah Vihear temple, and a Buddhist Kathen ceremony that marched into Wat Keo Sekha Kiri Svara, over which Bangkok claims sovereignty.

"Thais always send complaints that lack legal grounds. They are just protesting without reference to the law or to [border] maps," he told reporters after a meeting with the Thai ambassador Thursday.

"Thais should check their legal case before submitting complaints because it is a waste of time for us.

"All these [disputed] areas are located within Cambodian territory, so we do not have to ask permission from any country," Hor Namhong added.

"We hope that all countries will respect the flags and signs at Preah Vihear temple since it belongs not just to Cambodia but is also a World Heritage Site."

Cambodia and Thailand have never fully demarcated their shared 805-kilometre border, but a meeting between Hor Namhong and his Thai counterpart in Siem Reap on November 12 yielded an agreement to scale down troop numbers near Preah Vihear temple and begin joint border marking and demining operations from mid-December.

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