Thailand, Cambodia to solve border dispute through GBC: Thai defence minister


PHNOM PEHN, Sept 24 – Thai Defence Minister Gen Yutthasak Sasiprapa said Thailand and Cambodia agreed to solve its prolonged border dispute through the existing framework and that the Thai government is prepared to seek the release of two Thai activists now detained in Cambodian jail on charges of espionage.

The Thai defence minister made his remarks as he returned from the visit to the neighbouring country on Friday and met with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Cambodian counterpart Gen Tea Banh to boost bilateral ties between the two kingdoms.

Gen Yutthasak said both countries will plan to hold talks on the arrangements for the Thai-Cambodian General Border Committee (GBC) upcoming meeting.

The Committee from both sides will lay out the agenda and the framework of the meeting which would include the disputed border area near Preah Vihear temple, the withdrawal of troops and other considerations.

Gen Yutthasak, inquired with the Cambodian premier regarding the case of Mr Veera Somkwamkid, Thai Patriots Network coordinator and his secretary Ms Ratree Piattanapaiboon, and revealed that Mr Hun Sen agreed that he is ready to support the Thai requests which may be in form of the exchange of prisoners, the royal pardon or the reduction of jail term.

Mr Hun Sen said he will discuss the matter with concerned agencies first and that the help should not focus only on the two activists but cover all 37 Thai nationals currently detained in Cambodian prisons, according to Gen Yutthasak.

A Cambodian court on Feb 1 ruled Mr Veera guilty of espionage, illegal entry, and trespassing in a military zone, and sentenced him to an eight-year jail term, while Ms Ratree was handed a six-year jail term. Both have sought a royal pardon but their requests were rejected.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Surapong Towichakchaikul on Saturday defended the cabinet move to change of chair of the Thai-Cambodian Joint Border Commission (JBC), saying the new government has the right to select a new chairman.

Mr Surapong, now attending the 66th United Nations’ General Assembly 2011 in New York, made comments following criticism over the change of JBC chairman from Asda Jayanama to Bandhit Sotipalalit, a former Thai ambassador to several countries.

Mr Surapong said he had already consulted the matter with senior foreign officials and found that, although Mr Asda was well qualified, if he could solve the border disputes, it should have been sort out since two years ago.

“Personally, I believe Mr Bandhit is eligible and he has close relations with Cambodia, which should be advantages for the work, explained the foreign minister,” he said.

“I want to ask the public to give a chance to the new person to work.” stated Mr Surapong. “When the government changes, the new government also wants to do something new and not to repeat the previous one.”