Thai, Cambodian defence ministers meet at disputed temple

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SI SA KET, Feb 26 – Thai Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat stood firm that today’s lunch meeting with his Cambodian counterpart Tea Banh did not touch on the legal conflict on the border dispute.

The Thai and Cambodian defence ministers held bilateral talks at the temple despite an earlier objection by the Thai Foreign Ministry which proposed that the luncheon be moved to a hotel in Surin province on Thai territory.

The Foreign Ministry’s move irked the Cambodian authorities who abruptly called off the meeting and insisted on the original venue.

Air Chief Marshal Sukumpol told reporters after the meeting with Gen Tea Banh that neither side discussed the Phra Viharn (Preah Vihear) dispute which rests with the International Court of Justice which will later give its verdict.

He said he raised general border issues including illegal logging of Siamese rosewood on the border, saying that the Cambodian defence ministry promised to take harsher action against encroachers, and closer security collaboration in areas around the Phra Viharn temple site.

The Thai delegation also offered assistance on education and public health to Cambodia, he added.

ACM Sukumpol had left Bangkok this morning for the northeastern border province and was accompanied by a delegation of senior Thai military officers.