By The Nation
Published on February 4, 2011
Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya is scheduled to meet his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong to discuss border disputes, notably in the area near Preah Vihear Temple, and seek ways to ease the tension in Thailand caused by nationalist protesters.
The minister travelled by car yesterday through the border province of Sa Kaew to Siem Reap, where he will attend the Thailand-Cambodia Joint Commission meeting. Kasit stopped at the border to get a briefing from Thailand's Burapha Task Force.
The joint commission is expected to discuss general issues related to bilateral ties, like economic and cultural cooperation, although Kasit expects to discuss the boundary dispute with his counterpart on the sidelines.
The jailing of Thai Patriots Network leader Veera Somkwamkid and his assistant Ratree Pipatanapaiboon, who got lengthy sentences last week after being convicted of trespass and espionage by a Cambodian court, was unlikely to be on the agenda as the two are expected to appeal the verdict next week.
Kasit said he would visit the two in Prey Sar prison on the outskirts of Phnom Penh after the meeting wraps up today.
The border conflict was initially handled by the joint boundary committee, which met for the last time in 2009. But it is still waiting for the Thai Parliament to give it the go ahead to meet again.
The areas adjacent to Preah Vihear temple have not been demarcated and both countries claim sovereignty over the 4.6 square kilometres.
Thailand has accused Cambodia of building a Buddhist pagoda in the disputed area, and is demanding that it remove the national flag it has hoisted there. Cambodia has rejected the demand, saying the area is under its sovereignty.
Though the pagoda was built in 1998, the government has been pressed to protest by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which is also demanding that the 2000 memorandum of understanding on boundary demarcation be scrapped and Cambodians living near the temple be forcibly evicted.
Second Army Region chief Lt-General Thawatchai Samut-sakorn, who oversees the area, said he could not force Cambodia to remove the flag hoisted over Wat Keo Sikha Kiri Svara as it might spark a major conflict between the two countries.
Thailand had also hoisted its national flag at the Twin Stupa nearby, he said. "Both parties can claim sovereignty on the area as long as the boundary issue has not yet been demarcated," he added.