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Thai border negotiator steps down

Thai border negotiator steps down

THAILAND’S top border negotiator has resigned, officials said yesterday, as long-delayed border negotiations between Thailand and Cambodia remained stalled.

Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs deputy spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said yesterday that Vasin Teeravechyan, Thailand’s chairman of the bilateral Joint Border Committee, had stepped down from his post and
that a search was underway for a successor. Vasin’s departure, he added, would not hold up the demarcation process.

“We expect that his replacement should be appointed fairly soon, so we don’t anticipate that this would cause undue delay,” Thani said.

Senior minister Var Kimhong, Cambodia’s top border negotiator, said he felt “regret” about Vasin’s resignation.

“I have worked with my counterpart Mr Vasin for many years and we have lots of experience on border issues,” Var Kimhong said. He noted that Vasin had faced steady criticism over the course of his tenure from Thailand’s ultra-nationalist Yellow Shirt movement, the members of which had threatened to protest in Bangkok next month if the Thai parliament approved the latest border agreements.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said Vasin’s departure was an “internal affair” of Thailand.

“I think his resignation will not affect the negotiations between the two countries because they were delayed even when Mr Vasin was in power,” Koy Kuong said. “The issue is whether Thailand is willing to resolve the border dispute bilaterally with Cambodia or not, and we regret that the Thai parliament dares not approve the minutes” of the JBC, he said.

JBC talks had been stalled since April last year pending approval of the latest negotiations in the Thai parliament. This approval was delayed again earlier this month when, in lieu of a vote, Thai lawmakers set up a committee to study the negotiations and report back within 30 days.

Thani said he was unsure of when the JBC agreements might be approved.

“We’ll have to wait and see,” he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE

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