Published on March 10, 2011
Re: "Military interference hinders a settlement of border issues", Opinion, March 2.
We wish to set the record straight on some of the issues regarding Thailand's policy on its relations with Cambodia, which Pavin Chachavalpongpun raised in his article.
First, implementation of Thailand 's foreign policy has always been the product of close consultations and coordination among all concerned agencies. With regard to border-related issues with our neighbouring countries, this naturally involves the military and other national security agencies. There may be differences of views but ultimately the final say lies with the government, which is accountable to the people and responsible for safeguarding overall national interest. There is thus no "collision" in terms of policies.
Second, at the Informal Asean foreign ministers' meeting in Jakarta on February 22, both Thailand and Cambodia committed to avoiding further armed clashes, and both invited Indonesian observers to their respective sides of the border to observe their commitment. There was no discussion about "withdrawal" of troops. Nevertheless, possible redeployment of troops can be among the topics to be discussed bilaterally at the General Border Committee (GBC) co-chaired by the two defence ministers. Thailand has already stated publicly its wish to see the GBC meeting convened at the earliest opportunity, with the hope of being favourably reciprocated by Cambodia.
Third, to say "the Thai military has shown little interest in promoting relations with Cambodia" is untrue. The Thai military has maintained constant contact with its Cambodian counterpart, especially with units along the border. The February 19 meeting between high-level military representatives of both countries was but one in a series of discussions to try to avoid further clashes.
Fourth, it has always been Thailand's intention to work closely and amicably with Cambodia at all levels. During the second half of last year alone, the Thai and Cambodian prime ministers met four times. This year, the Thai foreign minister was still in Phnom Penh when the armed clashes took place on February 4, just having concluded with his Cambodian counterpart a successful and cordial meeting of the Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation, in Siem Reap. Even after the clashes, Deputy Prime Minister Trairong Suwankiri visited Cambodia on February 17 and called on Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Last but not least, the Thai government stands ready to promote further friendly relations between the two countries and has supported Cambodia in the latter's national development, particularly as both are also members of the same Asean family. Thailand has neither the desire nor reason to attack or open fire at its neighbour. To suggest - based on hearsay - that certain Thai soldiers might have fired into Cambodia to demonstrate their frustration with the government is not only misleading but also irresponsible.
Department of Information
Ministry of Foreign Affairs