Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Army: Indonesian observers not wanted

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha

via CAAI

Published: 23/03/2011 at 05:10 PM
Online news: Local News

Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon and commanders of all the armed forces have resolved not to allow Indonesian observers to enter the 4.6 square kilometre dispute area on the Thai-Cambodian border, army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Wednesday.

Gen Prayuth said the top brass wanted the Thai-Cambodian conflict to be solved by bilateral negotiations between the two countries, without outside involvement.

He said the army had made a proposal to Cambodia through the Foreign Ministry that if there were to be joint checkpoints in the disputed area, then a special centre should be set up to coordinate their operation.

The coordination centre must be manned by Thai and Cambodian soldiers only. It was not necessary to have Indonesian observers.

If Cambodia insisted on having Indonesian observers, they should be allowed to perform their duty only outside the disputed area, Gen Prayuth said.

"Why do they want to enter the disputed area? It's not safe there. The question is, if Indonesian observers come, will they be able to order Cambodian soldiers not to violate the Memorandum of Understanding?" he said.

The army chief was firm in his stand that the Thai-Cambodian conflict over the ancient Preah Vihear temple area was a matter to be solved by Thailand and Cambodia, and that Indonesia or any other third country should not be involved.

"Thailand and Cambodia, can reach a settlement through negotiations, especially between the soldiers," he said.

Gen Prayuth reaffirmed the Thai top brass would not attend the General Border Committee (GBC) meeting in Indonesia on April 7-8.

"The 8th GBC was initially to be hosted by Cambodia. If Cambodia cannot host the meeting, we would offer to host it in Thailand. We are contacting Gen Tea Banh, the Cambodian defence minister, over this matter," he said.

Asked what would happen if Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen insisted on not holding bilateral talks, he said: "If the meeting cannot be held, it will not be held."

Talks must be bilateral and foreigners should not interfere, Gen Prayuth said.

Regarding the map to be used in talks to settle the border conflict, Gen Prayuth said Thailand stands firm on using the 1:50,000 map, not the 1:200,000.

"Fighting will not bring anything good, only losses. Problems must be solved through negotiations," he said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh has submitted a petition seeking a royal pardon on behaldfof Thai Patriots Network coordinator Veera Somkwamkid and his personal secretary Ratree Pipatanapaiboon.

Mr Thani said the petition, signed by Mr Veera and Ms Ratree, was submitted through the Cambodian Foreign Ministry on March 14.

The petition had been forwarded to the proper agency and was being considered, he said.
Detained yellow-shirt activist Veera Somkwamkid

Asked Mr Veera's reported illness, Mr Thani said the Thai embassy reported that his condition had improved.

Asked if a change of government after the general election would affect the petition for a royal pardon, Mr Thani said he did not think so.

No matter what the politics may be, the Foreign Ministry is duty-bound to help Thai people in trouble, he said.

Mr Thani had no idea how long the pardon process would take.

Mr Veera and Ms Ratree were among the seven Thais arrested by Cambodian soldiers on Dec 29 for illegal entry.

The five other Thais were sentenced by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to nine months in jail for illegal entry. They were freed after the remaining eight months in jail was suspended by the court.

The pair was additionally charged with spying. Mr Veera was sentenced to eight years in jail and Ms Ratree six years in jail.

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