BANGKOK, April 26 – Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya is scheduled to meet Defence Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan Tuesday to review Thailand’s policy towards Cambodia following the weekend’s renewed clashes, claiming scores of casualties among troops on both sides.
Speaking to reporters here after inspecting the situation along the Thai-Cambodian border at the northeastern province of Surin after clashes between troops of the two neighbours erupted Friday, Mr Kasit said the fighting proved that Cambodia would not stop and refused to accept Thailand’s proposal to hold bilateral talks.
The foreign minister said that Thailand must therefore review its overall policy regarding Cambodia.
Mr Kasit said he would meet with Defence Minister Gen Prawit when the general returns from Surin to review policy regarding Thai-Cambodian relations as the lives of the 30,000 people who have been displaced must take top priority.
“Cambodia has deliberately launched attacks against us for many days and that went against [continued] amicable relations. Other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should be notified of Cambodia’s hostile action.” he said.
Mr Kasit did not rule out that cross-border trade, border closure and bilateral cooperation at all levels will be reviewed. However, the current situation now has not yet warranted Thailand to expel the Cambodian ambassador to Thailand.
“It is not necessary to go that far but we will consider how to respond to Cambodia on a step-by-step basis and that also depends on Cambodia’s reaction,” he said. “We want to assure you that any Thai action would be taken on a rational and prudent basis.”
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said the foreign minister has not yet brought the issue to the Cabinet, while reaffirming the government’s principle on the border conflict that Thailand wants to live peacefully with its neighbour and that while Thailand will not order the army to invade its neighbour, the country will retaliate as necessary.
Fighting between Thai and Cambodian soldiers continued for four consecutive days, with the latest clash occurring Monday night and ending at 3am this morning. Six grenades had reportedly fallen into a Thai village in Surin’s Phanom Dongrak district.
The Public Health Ministry reported Tuesday that ten Thai soldiers were wounded in the late night clash, raising the accumulative toll of injuries to 42 soldiers, while death toll remains at five.
Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Director-General Wiboon Sanguanpong said Tuesday that three districts of Surin province, including Phanom Dongrak, Kap Choeng and Prasathas, have been declared disaster zones following the deadly clashes near Ta Muan and Ta Kwai temples.
Mr Wiboon said so far 25,835 people have been evacuated to 22 safer locations since the fighting erupted April 22.