BANGKOK, March 29 - Thai Defence Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan on Monday stood firm that there is no need for the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) to meet in a third country, emphasising that the border conflict is a bilateral issue between the two neighbours.
The Thai defence minister expressed his stance following reports that his Cambodian counterpart Gen Tea Banh said the upcoming JBC meeting will be held in Indonesia, which is the current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Gen Prawit said the Cambodian defence minister has not yet talked to him about the matter but said the two countries have no need for the border meeting to take place in a third country as the dispute can be solved at the bilateral level.
"I look at the overall situation, the people of the two countries can still cross the border normally and border trade is still business as usual with no border closure," Gen Prawit said. "Thais can cross the border to Cambodia while the Cambodians can also visit Thailand. So why can't we hold the meeting in the two countries?"
Tension along the Thai-Cambodian border was renewed after clashes between soldiers of the two countries erupted near the ancient Preah Vihear temple on Feb 4, leading to casualties among the troops and civilians from both sides, as well as forcing the evacuation of villagers living on both sides of the disputed area.
The JBC meeting was scheduled to be held in Thailand in February but was deferred after the deadly clashes.
Meanwhile, key leaders of the 'Yellow Shirt' People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) on Monday submitted a letter to lawmakers at the Thai Parliament to oppose the possible approval of the minutes of three JBC meetings scheduled to be considered in the joint sitting of the House of Representatives and the Senate tomorrow.
PAD spokesman Panthep Puapongphan said the movement decided to lodge a third complaint letter regarding the three JBC documents. The group accused Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of distorting information on the case and of trying to convince the legislators to endorse the documents.
Mr Panthep however said it was unnecessary for the PAD supporters to stage rally at Parliament tomorrow, but the group will closely monitor the joint sitting.
Another Yellow Shirt leader, Prapan Koonmee, said the PAD legal team will discuss its next move if the minutes of the three JBC meetings are finally approved by Parliament.
The PAD has opposed parliamentary endorsement of three previous memos by the JBC, claiming they may end up in the loss of Thai territory adjacent to the ancient temple. They also demanded revocation of the MoU signed with Cambodia in 2000.
The International Court of Justice in 1962 ruled that the 11th century temple belongs to Phnom Penh, and UNESCO named it a World Heritage site in 2008 after Cambodia applied to register the status. Both countries claim a 4.6-square-kilometre strip of land adjacent to the cliff-top temple. (MCOT online news)