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PM skips Tamone temple on border trip

PM skips Tamone temple on border trip

PRIME Minister Hun Sen concluded his high-profile tour of the Thai-Cambodian border on Monday, continuing his harsh rhetoric against the Thai government, but avoiding visiting a temple in Oddar Meanchey province that both sides claim as their own.

Speaking at Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Base 42 in Oddar Meanchey’s Banteay Ampil district, Hun Sen again accused Thailand and Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of invading Cambodian territory, pointing in particular to Thailand’s occupation of the Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvarak pagoda, near Preah Vihear temple, that began on July 15, 2008.

“Abhisit, will you swear on having all your family members be killed in a plane crash ... that your soldiers did not come to invade Cambodia at Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvarak?” Hun Sen said.

“Do you dare to swear on magic that could break your neck, on a plane crash or a dissolution of the countries, that your soldiers did not invade Cambodia’s territory on July 15, 2008?”

Hun Sen, who visited Preah Vihear temple on Saturday, also accused Abhisit of stealing the premiership in Thailand, saying the Thai leader had “no family honour”.

“You attacked me, so I have to defend, and will continue with counter-attacks on you,” Hun Sen said.

Despite these confrontational remarks, Hun Sen chose to forego a visit to nearby Tamone Thom temple, just a few kilometres away in Banteay Ampil district.

Chawanon Intharakomansut, secretary to the Thai foreign minister, said Monday that Cambodian leaders had been in talks with Thailand about a potential visit to Tamone Thom, but scuttled their plans after Thailand demanded that Hun Sen’s escorts travel unarmed.

“We asked them to [discard] their weapons if they want to come into the area, that’s the only condition, and I think they changed their minds,” Chawanon said.

In a statement released on Monday, Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Tamone Thom was “clearly situated in Cambodian territory”, citing maps from 1908 as proof of the Kingdom’s claim. Accompanied by this statement was a copy of a note written by Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong in 2008 to then-Thai foreign minister Tej Bunnag in which Hor Namhong accused Thai troops of occupying Tamone Thom illegally, ordering their immediate withdrawal.

Chawanon declined to comment on these documents, and said that Tamone Thom is indisputably a Thai possession.

“The fact is that we’ve controlled the area for so long … so there’s no question,” he said.

In a press conference on Monday afternoon at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hor Namhong denied that Hun Sen had ever planned to visit Tamone Thom.

Hun Sen “had no plan to visit [Tamone Thom], and I knew before it before the visit”, Hor Namhong said, rejecting media reports to the contrary.

The foreign minister reasserted Cambodia’s claim to the land around Preah Vihear temple as well as Tamone Thom, criticising Thai media outlets and politicians for blowing Hun Sen’s border visit out of proportion

“Why were they really surprised about the visit of Samdech Techo? The reason is that they want to take Cambodian land,” Hor Namhong said.

Chawanon dismissed the idea that Hun Sen’s visit had stoked further tensions between the two nations, arguing that it in fact represented a positive development in their relations.

“For the past few days, I think some good signs have been shown between two countries, that we play by the rules of engagement in the area. That’s a good step for our relationship,” he said.

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