Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Tea Banh: GBC must meet only in Indonesia

via CAAI

Published: 29/03/2011
Online news: Local News

The Thai-Cambodian General Border Committee (GBC) meeting must be held only in Indonesia, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Tea Banh said on Tuesday.

Gen Tea Banh, in saying this, turned down Thai Defence Minister Prawit Songsuwon's proposal that the 8th GBC, which was supposed to be hosted by Cambodia this year, remain strictly bilateral and be held in either Cambodia or Thailand.

Defence Minister Prawit Songsuwon (left) and Cambodia's Deputy PM Tea Banh

The Cambodian general said that at this stage talks between Thailand and Cambodia cannot be bilateral because both the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) passed resolutions that Indonesia should act as mediator.

"Therefore, I will talk to Thailand only in the presence of Indonesian mediators and in Indonesia only," he said.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen also does not want bilateral talks with Thailand, be it the GBC or the Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) meeting, Gen Tea Banh said in an interview with the Bangkok Post in Phnom Penh.

"Whether or not the GBC meeting will be held depends on the Thai side. So I cannot say whether the GBC will be held at all if Thailand insists in not going to Indonesia. Cambodia's stand on this matter is clear," he said.

On the border situation, Gen Tea Banh said Cambodian soldiers would remain at their present positions, and so would Thai soldiers, as long as there were no talks between the two sides.

He said Cambodia will continue to work on the development plan for the disputed area around Preah Vihear temple.

"In fact, I don't want the situation between Thailand and Cambodia to remain unresolved like this, because we are neighbours.

"We can't move away from each other nor be separated. No matter what, we have to hold talks, but I don't know when," Gen Tea Banh said.

He said Thai and Cambodian soldiers had frequently clashed because some political groups in Thailand wanted the situation to be this way, despite the fact that the conflict between the two countries was negotiable.

On Gen Prawit's proposal that Thai and Cambodian soldiers set up joint checkpoints in the disputed area, without involvement by Indonesian observers, Gen Tea Banh said Asean had resolved that Indonesia should be involved because Thailand and Cambodia had never been able to reach a settlement between them.

"I would like the Thai media to help promote relations between the two countries. Don't let a group of people destroy our long relationship.

"Somdej Hun Sen said the two countries are inseparable. So we need to talk and cooperate," he said.

An informed source in Cambodia said Maj-Gen Hun Manet, deputy commander of Hun Sen's Body Guards Unit, had travelled to Indonesia to prepare for the JBC and GBC meetings, even though the Thai Defence Ministry had not made a commitment to take part in them.

Indonesia has proposed the GBC and JBC be held at Bogor on April 7-8.

The source said Hun Sen and the Indonesian government are very close, as Indonesia has provided military assistance to Cambodia.

According to the source, Thailand had tried to persuade Cambodia to allow Thai Buddhist monks to stay with Cambodian monks at Wat Kaeo Sikha Khiri Savara in the 4.6 square kilometre disputed area, so that Thai soldiers would not have to be sent there.

Yellow-shirt activist Veera Somkwamkid

On the issue of detained yellow-shirt activisit Veera Somkwamkid and his secretary Ratree Pipatanapaiboon, Gen Tea Banh said he has no idea when the pair will be granted a royal padon.

Gen Tea Banh said in response to questions that procedural steps must be taken in seeking a royal pardon for the convicts, adding that he did not know if Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had forwarded the petition for a royal pardon filed by Veera and Ratree to the king.

Nobody could say what the outcome would be, or if or when they would be released, he said.

"It's not that anybody can just ask to be released. The Cambodian justice process cannot be interfered with," he said.

Gen Wichit Yathip, a former deputy army chief and a close aide to former prime minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, said the Democrat-led government should seek help from people who could talk to Cambodia, in order to help the two jailed yellow-shirt activists.

"But the government and the Foreign Ministry have never asked Gen Chavalit or me for help," Gen Wichit said.

Gen Wichit was in Phnom Penh today to take part in the opening of the new Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra hotel of Thai businessman Supachai Veeranarong. The opening ceremony was chaired by Gen Tea Banh.

Gen Chavalit did not attend the event, but sent his wife Khunying Phankrue to represent him.

Veera and Ratree were sentenced to eight and six years in jail respectively after being found guilty of illegal entry and espionage.

They and five other Thais were arrested on Dec 29, initially for illegal entry.

The five other Thais were found guilty of illegal entry and then freed after the remaining eight months of their nine-month jail sentences were suspended.

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