PRIME Minister Hun Sen chided the Thai government yesterday for its inaction in resolving an ongoing border dispute with Cambodia, taking up a familiar rhetorical pose in remarks before a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh.
Although Cambodia and Thailand restored full diplomatic ties last month following the resignation of fugitive former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra from his position as economics adviser to the Cambodian government, Hun Sen said yesterday that discord between the two countries will not be resolved until Thailand withdraws its troops from disputed territory near Preah Vihear temple.
“The solution to the problem is easy – just withdraw the troops from Cambodia and it will all be finished,” Hun Sen said, apparently addressing Thai officials.
Thailand withdrew its ambassador to Cambodia in protest at Thaksin’s appointment last year, and returned the envoy last month following news of Thaksin’s resignation, prompting Cambodia to follow suit. But although Thai officials have hailed Cambodia’s decision to cut ties with the fugitive billionaire, wanted in Thailand on graft charges, as a harbinger of improving relations, Hun Sen said yesterday that the move was unrelated to politics, and that Thaksin was “still my friend”.
“I will not be happy and smile at you while you are shaking my hand but stepping on my foot,” Hun Sen said. “Even though the ambassadors have been restored, I am still not happy because you have not withdrawn the troops from my land.”
Hun Sen and Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva plan to meet on the sidelines of October’s Asia-Europe Meeting in Belgium at the suggestion of Association of Southeast Asian Nations Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan. Hun Sen said yesterday that the meeting would touch on trade and economic issues in addition to concerns about the border.
Border negotiations under the bilateral Joint Border Commission are stalled pending the approval by the Thai parliament of the latest round of negotiations. A scheduled approval vote in Bangkok was postponed last month, to the consternation of Cambodian officials.
Thai government officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.