But cancelled PM visit will stall border negotiations
THE cancellation of Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat's visit to Cambodia has dealt a new blow to negotiations to resolve the military standoff at Preah Vihear, but analysts say continued political upheaval in Bangkok risks taking a match to the combustible situation at the 11th-century Hindu temple.
The Thai premier cancelled his scheduled visit to Cambodia Friday in response to the growing turmoil in the Thai capital, a week after Thai and Cambodian troops were injured in a brief firefight near Preah Vihear.
Koy Kuong, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornwiwat is expected to arrive in Phnom Penh today for the scheduled talks with his counterpart Hor Namhong. However, analysts see the cancellation of Somchai's visit as a symptom of a deeper malaise in Thai politics and expect tensions to remain high on the border while the Thai troubles continue.
Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political analyst based at Bangkok's Chulalangkorn University, told the Post that the situation in Thailand, which has seen activists of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) take to the streets in an attempt to force Somchai's resignation, will only undermine the border negotiations.
"The turmoil and confrontation in Bangkok are going to adversely affect Prime Minister Somchai's bargaining position," he said. "He is essentially being overthrown by the PAD, and he will not have the domestic support needed to negotiate the issue."
Local officials, however, have denied the cancellation will have an effect on the military negotiations, saying they are ready to talk.
"Negotiations at the military level will depend on the Thais," said Neang Phat, secretary of state at the Ministry of Defence.
But as accusations fly as to whose troops were responsible for the shootout earlier this month, Thitinan said the situation is primed for a fresh flare-up of violence.
"The situation is tense. It is very much touch and go now, and the stakes are so high something has to give," he said.