Tuesday, 28 October 2008


Bangkok Post
Tuesday October 28, 2008

Thai-Cambodian relations took a step forward last week when the two prime ministers met during the Asia-Europe Summit in Beijing.

Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat and his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen agreed that the border conflict must be solved peacefully through the joint Thai-Cambodian border demarcation committee, which is scheduled to meet on Nov 10.

PM Hun Sen softened his stance during his meeting with PM Somchai. Two weeks ago, the Cambodian leader had demanded that Thai troops be withdrawn from a disputed area near the Preah Vihear temple. Clashes subsequently erupted, resulting in casualties on both sides.

The longstanding border dispute has done more harm than good to both countries. Cambodia has lost its income from tourism and border trade since the temple dispute flared up last July. Thailand's border trade has also suffered.

The two leaders' meeting in Beijing has generated optimism and goodwill on both sides of the border. Those who tried to whip up nationalism to create tensions between the two countries must now think twice.

During the Cold War era, the United States and the Soviet Union created wars through their proxies around the world, and Southeast Asia was no exception. Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam were drawn into this proxy war.

With the demise of the Soviet empire, Thailand under the late prime minister Chatichai Choonhavan adopted a new policy to turn the Indochina battlefields into trade zones. Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam subsequently joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

All countries must strive for peaceful co-existence for the benefit of their peoples.

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