Thursday, 31 March 2011

Tea Banh: Prawit agrees to Indonesia GBC meeting

via CAAI

Published: 30/03/2011
Online news: Local News

Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon has agreed to attend the General Border Committee (GBC) meeting in Indonesia, according to Cambodia's Defence Minister Tea Banh.

Gen Tea Banh announced the agreement in an interview with the Bangkok Post in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.

Gen Prawit has repeatedly said he would not go to the GBC meeting, scheduled to be held in Bogor, Indonesia, on April 7-8. He has said the GBC should be purely bilateral and the meeting held in either Cambodia or Thailand, not in Indonesia or any other third country.

Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon (left) and his Cambodian counterpart Tea Banh (Photo by Thiti Wannamontha)

Gen Tea Banh claimed he had talked over this matter with Gen Prawit and that the Thai minister had agreed to go to the meeting in Indonesia.

He said he would himself leave for Indonesia on April 6.

"The Thai side can't insist not going because it has agreed with the United Nations Security Council and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to let Indonesia mediate talks with Cambodia," Gen Tea Banh said.

"I still believe Gen Prawit will definitely go to Indonesia for the April 7-8 meeting. I'll be waiting for him over there," he added.

An informed source said Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has made it a policy for the Cambodian army that in talks with their Thai counterparts they must insist on not withdrawing Cambodian troops from the 4.6 square kilometre disputed area.

Hun Sen has said Cambodian soldiers were duty-bound to remain in the area, regardless of for how long.

His objective is for Thailand to accept observers from Indonesia into the disputed area for inspections, the source said.

The source also said Hun Sen would not be happy if he happened to see a Cambodian soldier talk to a Thai soldier in the Thai language.

"The prime minister said Cambodian soldiers must speak Cambodian, and use an interpreter if necessary," the source said.

Meanwhile, the Phnom Penh government insists Thai investors are welcome in Cambodia despite the long-standing border conflict between the two countries.

Thai investors, too, are confident the tense border conflict will not affect their investment plans.

Cambodian Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said Thai investors are eligible for tax privileges and Thai products imported by them are exempted from taxation for a period of three to eight years.

Mr Thong Khon was full of praise for such Thai businessman as Supachai Verapuchong, managing director of the Sofitel Phnom Penh Pookeerhra Hotel, for his continued investment in Cambodia even though the hotel, formerly known as the Royal Phnom Penh, was severely damaged in an anti-Thai rioting in Phnom Penh in December 2006.

Prime Minister Hun Sen's policy is to encourage more foreign investment in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Koh Kong.

Countries in this region which have invested in Cambodia are China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand. Those from elsewhere include Australia, Portugal, England, the United States and France.

Mr Supachai, who invested more than two billion baht in the five-star Sofitel Phnom Penh Pookeethra Hotel, said even though the relations between Thailand and Cambodia are plagued with uncertainty he has confidence in the Cambodian government's policy toward investors, including those from Thailand.

In 2006, Mr Supachai invested US$40 million in the Sofitel Ankor Hotel and a golf course in Siem Reap.

"Despite turbulence, Thailand and Cambodia are neighbours. We have to walk together as friends," he said.

"In four years from now, there will not be a tariff wall in Asean. The question is whether Thai investors and the Thai government are ready for the days ahead, when business competition will be tougher.

"So we should establish business ties, which will subsequently lead to improvement of relations in other fields," Mr Supachai said.

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