Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Cambodian PM says will open border with Thailand, as Thai army chief visits Phom Penh

Cambodia announced on Tuesday 21st December that it will open its side of the border near Preah Vihear temple after the New Year.

The announcement was part of a series of statements that accompanied the visit of Thailand's army chief to Cambodia. General Prayuth Chan Ochu made a two day visit to Phom Penh, and he promised on Monday 20th December that his government would not allow any group to use Thai territory to mistreat Cambodia.

The visit also saw the release of three Thai villagers that were imprisoned for spying after being caught on the wrong side of the border while hunting and foraging. They were freed on 21st December from a Siam Reap prison upon receiving a royal pardon from King Norodom Sihanouk to mark the 60th anniversary of the Thai-Cambodian diplomatic relations.

General Prayuth said in an interview on his return from Cambodia that the relations between the two countries had been strengthened by his visit. Tension between the neighbours reached a high in July 2010 over Cambodian plans for the Preah Vihear temple, which sits in the border region, but relations have improved since and the top leaders of both countries have met four times this autumn.

General Prayuth only took office in September, and he said the purpose of his visit was to introduce himself to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. He thanked Hun for his efforts during the last two months to ease the tension, and in response Hun said that Cambodia will insist upon peaceful negotiation with Thailand, and will avoid military confrontations.

As well as announcing that Cambodia will open its side of the border near Preah Vihear, Hun encouraged Thailand to reopen its side of the border. Hun also said that demarcation of the common border should be carried out as soon as possible. He said that he expected the Joint Boundary Committee (JBC) to hold a meeting in the new year.

"Since we are neighbours and cannot move away from each other, we should cooperate and stay together in peace.”

"Thailand and Cambodia are like a tongue and teeth which must be in contact. It is not right that the teeth must be removed if the tongue is bitten," the Cambodian prime minister said to Gen Prayuth.

During the holiday period, both Thai and Cambodian military leaders are expected to visit their soldiers in the Preah Vihear area to show that their troops are still in the disputed area, but without confrontation. The meeting also resulted in an agreement that Cambodian troops will be sent to Thailand to study the Thai military.

Sources: Bangkok Post, People's Daily
For more information on Thailand and Cambodia's land and maritime border disputes, please see the Menas Borders website.

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