Thursday, 24 February 2011

PM: Thailand is ready to respond

via CAAI

Published: 24/02/2011

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva says Thailand is prepared to strike with full force against Cambodia if it continues to violate Thai sovereignty.

Bridge over troubled waters Army engineers build a makeshift bridge across a river near the border village of Phum Srol in Si Sa Ket. The structure, designed to accommodate tanks, is planned for use in case bridges are destroyed in fighting. JETJARAS NARANONG

Mr Abhisit insisted yesterday that Thailand had the right to act against Cambodia - and he has the staunch backing of the army.

There has been speculation about whether Thailand would respond to Cambodian aggression after Indonesia was invited to deploy 15 observers to inspect the two sides of the disputed border area.

The invitation was issued on Tuesday during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations foreign ministers meeting chaired by Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa in Jakarta.

"There isn't any agreement that leaves us unable to protect our sovereignty," Mr Abhisit said. "If [Cambodia] provokes [future] clashes, we have the right to launch a full retaliatory attack."

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha backed the premier, saying there would be no withdrawal of troops. Thai forces remained in position in the disputed 4.6-square-kilometre border zone.

"No one is saying anything about withdrawal." Gen Prayuth said.

"Who would do that? If Cambodia doesn't pull its troops back, we can't. If Cambodia doesn't cease fire, we can't."

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation director-general Irina Bokova's special envoy on the Preah Vihear temple, Koichiro Matsuura, will travel to Bangkok and Phnom Penh from tomorrow until Tuesday to discuss how to safeguard the centuries-old temple, a Unesco world heritage site, with the Thai and Cambodian prime ministers.

Mr Matsuura, a former Unesco director-general and a former chair of the World Heritage Committee, will also examine with both sides ways of reducing tension and promoting dialogue about the preservation of the temple, Unesco said in a statement released yesterday.

Ms Bokova has voiced concern over damage to the Hindu temple caused by the fighting between Thai and Cambodian soldiers earlier this month.

Thailand blamed Cambodia for using the temple as a military base to open fire on Thai soldiers

The Thai military said they had no choice but to fire back.

Former Thai ambassador Asda Jayanama, the chair of the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission, has flown to Paris to clarify the Preah Vihear situation with Ms Bokova.

Acting government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said the Unesco representative would meet the prime minister, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti and Foreign Affairs Minister Kasit Piromya tomorrow.

Mr Panitan said security officials would not allow him to visit the border because the situation was still sensitive and tense.

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