Thursday, 10 February 2011

Villagers rally to call on PAD to stay away


via CAAI

Published: 10/02/2011

SI SA KET : Plans by the People's Alliance for Democracy to visit a village bordering Cambodia tomorrow are running into stiff opposition from local people.

Villagers from Ban Phum Srol staged a rally yesterday to denounce the visit.

"You have created the war. You troubled us. We don't welcome you," said Wichit Duangkaew, 46, yesterday of the PAD, attributing the latest skirmish between Thai and Cambodian soldiers to the yellow shirts' rally being held in Bangkok.

The PAD began its street demonstration on Jan 25 to pile pressure on the Abhisit Vejjajiva government to submit to several demands including the ejection of Cambodians from overlapping border areas that the group claims belong to Thailand and the revocation of the memorandum of understanding signed in 2000 with Cambodia on border demarcation negotiations.

A clash between Thai and Cambodian soldiers erupted on Friday last week near Phum Srol village in Si Sa Ket's Kantharalak district. One villager was killed and many buildings in the village were damaged.

The clash forced villagers to flee for their safety, leaving the village almost deserted.

"When Cambodian solders fired missiles and artillery pieces at us, were you [the PAD] with us?" Mr Wichit asked.

The PAD has announced it planned to visit Thai soldiers and villagers in Kantharalak district to boost their morale and hand out aid supplies.

Key PAD leader Chamlong Srimuang insisted yesterday his group would not cancel its visit tomorrow. Members of a PAD-appointed committee on territorial defence would take relief supplies to Kantharalak district office about 5pm.

Chokchai Saikaew, head of Sao Thongchai tambon administration organisation, believed the villagers would not oppose the visit if it was aimed at helping victims. But they would lose patience if the PAD set up a stage and talked about the border conflict.

The PAD-affiliated Thai Patriots Network decided early last month to call off a rally near the border with Cambodia in Sa Kaeo province after it ran into fierce opposition from villagers in Khok Sung district.

The group planned to mobilise people, including PAD supporters in the province, to join the rally aimed at putting pressure on Phnom Penh to release seven Thais arrested in December on charges of illegally entering Cambodia.

Villagers in Khok Sung, the district close to the area where the Thais were arrested, staged a counter-rally to oppose the group's move.

Like the Ban Phum Srol villagers, residents of Khok Sung did not want the network to worsen the border conflict.

The dispute involving the detained Thais caused them a great deal of trouble. The border was closed and Cambodian labourers were unable to report to work in Sa Kaeo.

Five of the seven detainees have been convicted of illegal entry and released. The government is finding ways to help Thai Patriots Network coordinator and PAD key figure Veera Somkhwamkid and his secretary, Ratree Pipatanapaiboon, who remain in a Cambodian jail after they were convicted of espionage.

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