Thai lawmakers have failed to approve the latest round of border negotiations with Cambodia during a parliamentary session, prompting renewed complaints from Phnom Penh about the long-delayed process.
The joint parliamentary session in Bangkok voted to set up a committee to study the latest agreements of the bilateral Joint Border Committee and report back to lawmakers on the issue within 30 days, said Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy spokesman Thani Thongphakdi.
JBC negotiations have been stalled since April of last year pending Thai parliamentary approval.
“We’ve expressed our regret as this continues to go on,” said Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong.
“We want to resolve the border spat as soon as possible through bilateral or multilateral mechanisms. This is an internal issue of Thailand, but we regret the delays on this issue.”
The JBC agreements were also on the parliament’s agenda last Tuesday, but deliberation on them was later delayed for a week.
At the previous three JBC and foreign minister meetings, Thailand and Cambodia agreed to undertake joint de-mining and demarcation projects along the border near Preah Vihear temple, and to redeploy troops in the area in a bid to ease tensions.
More than 1,000 members of Thailand’s People’s Alliance for Democracy, better known as the Yellow Shirts, gathered outside the Thai parliament on Tuesday to protest against the possible ratification of the border agreements, saying the agreements would require a cession of Thai territory to Cambodia.
The PAD has threatened to stage a “mass rally” in the Thai capital next month if the agreements are approved, according to the Bangkok Post.
Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a fellow at Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, said that the vote was a “delaying tactic”.
However, he said that lawmakers and the Abhisit administration were under “extreme pressure, especially from the PAD extremists, who are keen to continue to engage in conflict with Cambodia for certain political purposes”.
Going forward, Pavin said, Abhisit likely has the political will to eventually restart negotiations.
“It is rather obvious that engaging in conflict with Cambodia, which in the past proved useful, might not be in his government’s interest,” Pavin said.