Cambodia’s frustration with Thai treatment of Khmer Muslims soothed

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BANGKOK, Aug 24 – A senior Thai military officer on Thursday brushed aside Cambodia’s dissatisfaction over the thorough inspection of Cambodian Muslims entering Thailand, insisting that the measure is necessary as far as national security is concerned.

Maj-Gen Dittaporn Sasa-smit, spokesman of the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), said the inspection enables the authorities to know the background of the Muslim arrivals in case of untoward incidents.

“We need to immediately supply them (the Cambodian authorities) with necessary information if asked for,” he said.

Gen Dittaporn said Cambodian Muslims have been entering Thailand at border checkpoints in Sa Kaew province but there has been no report of their involvement in terrorism.

Most of them enter Thailand to seek jobs and some cross the border to Malaysia looking for jobs, he said.

A spokesman of the Cambodian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday described as groundless Thai allegations that some Cambodian Muslims have been involved in violence in Thailand’s deep South.

He admitted that about 1,000 Cambodian Muslims enter Thailand through eastern border checkpoints for jobs each month due to poverty and unemployment in their home country.

Meanwhile, Gen Dittaporn called on the private sector in the violence-plagued provinces in the south to seek special protection from the authorities if needed to avoid damage to their businesses.

He said southern insurgents have lately targeted more private businesses and stores probably due to their objectives of separatism, illegal trading of  goods and drug trafficking.

They (the southern insurgents) are putting more pressure on the state authorities to quell their anti-insurgency activity in the South, the ISOC spokesman claimed.

Deputy Prime Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapa on Thursday called a meeting of senior security officers to discuss the ongoing southern violence and the establishment of an operations centre to resolve the long-standing problems.

Plans for the so-called operations centre to solve problems in Thailand’s deep South, once finalised, will be submitted to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra next week for her approval.

Pol Gen Wichean Potephosree, Secretary General of the National Security Council (NSC), has been assigned to work on the structure of the new centre in order to integrate the responsibilities of agencies under a total of 17 ministries in solving the southern violence and insurgency.