Sunday, 5 July 2009

Tensionsput aside as new road opens

Published: 5/07/2009

Tensions between Thailand and Cambodia could ease as friendly feelings were recalled yesterday in a joint ceremony opening a new road linking the two countries, said Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen together inaugurated the 131km road running from the Sa-ngam border pass in Si Sa Ket's Phu Sing district to Anlong Veng and Siem Reap in Cambodia.

Thailand hopes the route will boost tourism for the northeastern province as it is a new link to the home of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap.

The road opening was a good opportunity to "correct some misunderstandings and work for a better atmosphere", said Mr Abhisit.

Mr Suthep and the Cambodian leader met for the second time in two weeks. On June 27 he met Mr Hun Sen at his home near Phnom Penh to mend fences after Thailand's protest to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation about Cambodia's unilateral bid to register Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site.

Thailand objected before Unesco's World Heritage Committee in Spain late last month, arguing that Thailand should have been party to the registration process as well.

Troops from the two countries have clashed over overlapping areas surrounding the temple, which has yet to be demarcated.

The Cambodian government was upset about the Thai decision to renew protest action, leading to renewed border tensions.

Mr Suthep did not raise the Preah Vihear issue during the opening ceremony yesterday. He said the atmosphere was good, especially when Mr Hun Sen thanked Thailand for building the road.

"He told people the two countries have good relations and are friends," Mr Suthep said.

Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said on Friday that talks with Cambodia were necessary if Thailand wanted to cut troop numbers at the border with Cambodia, to lessen tensions.

"I guarantee [this time] there will not be a fight between Thailand and Cambodia," Gen Prawit said.

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