Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Tablet a bitter pill to swallow

via CAAI

Armed forces chief sees a favourable outcome

Published: 25/01/2011 

Thailand is expecting a favourable response from Phnom Penh to its request to remove an insulting stone tablet put up by Cambodian troops in a disputed border area, security authorities say.

Merit in peaceful talks: Supreme Commander Songkitti Jaggabatara, left, meets his Cambodian counterpart, Gen Pol Sareoun, right, at Wat Chantharaburiwong in Phnom Penh for a Buddhist meritmaking ceremony. The supreme commander led 140 representatives from the armed forces to offer donations from Thailand to the temple. WASSANANANUAM

The tablet claims "victory" for Cambodia after the last of Thai forces withdrew from Wat Kaew Sikha Khiri Sawara last month in a troop reduction schedule agreed to by both sides.

The withdrawal of the troops has no bearing on territorial claims and the Khmer-language sign has antagonised the Thai military by referring to its soldiers as "invaders" and claiming they had "trespassed" on Cambodian land.

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha yesterday said Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon had told his Cambodian counterpart, Gen Tea Banh, he wanted the stone tablet removed.

The Cambodian authorities have acknowledged the message and are discussing the issue. Gen Prayuth said he expected a positive resolution within the next few days.

"[Placing] a tablet does not prove that the area belongs to you," the army chief said yesterday.

"Can you accept that? No, you can't. If this was the case, any area where I stick a tablet would belong to me."

Gen Prayuth said the border conflict needed to be resolved through mutual understanding.

The Cambodians might be trying to to claim the land by erecting the tablet at the temple, situated in a 4.6-square-kilometre disputed area just 300 metres from the Preah Vihear temple, he said. The Thai people, Gen Prayuth added, should not be overly worried by the move since Thailand and Cambodia had a joint boundary commission to settle any border disputes.

"If an agreement cannot be reached, [this land] will not belong to either party," he said.

The placing of the tablet has put pressure on both Cambodia and Thailand, Gen Prayuth said, and the two sides should negotiate for the sake of maintaining bilateral relations and to avoid harming the livelihoods of people of both nationalities along the border.

He believed the issue was not serious enough to lead to clashes between the troops as they had developed good relations in recent years and shared similar backgrounds.

Supreme Commander Songkitti Jaggabatara yesterday met his Cambodian counterpart, Gen Pol Sareoun, in Phnom Penh and delivered a similar message.

"Cambodia said a correction will be made in a favourable way," Gen Songkitti said afterwards.

"Let's wait and see."

The supreme commander was among 140 armed forces representatives who gave donations from Thailand to fund the development of Wat Chantharaburiwong in Phnom Penh.

Gen Songkitti said his delegation was warmly welcomed.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, who supervises security affairs, said yesterday Thailand needed to protest against the tablet, and any unilateral claim on disputed land was unacceptable. He said neither party could claim the disputed area pending demarcation.

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