Home > Local News > It all comes back to the Preah Vihear dispute

It all comes back to the Preah Vihear dispute

Relations between Bangkok and Phnom Penh are
again being tested following the arrest on Wednesday by Cambodian
troops of seven Thais including a government MP.
The seven were picked up on charges of trespassing on Cambodian
territory while inspecting a disputed border site near Ban Nong Jarn in
Khok Sung district of Sa Kaeo.
The group arrested included Democrat Party MP for Bangkok Panich
Vikitsreth; People’s Alliance for Democracy co-leader Veera Somkwamkid;
Samdin Lertbutr, a PAD activist; Tainae Mungmajon; and three others
identified only as Muay, Uan and Sab.
Mr Panich said by telephone after his arrest on Wednesday that he
was investigating a complaint by local people that Cambodian troops had
encroached on their farmland for more than a month.
The issue became more complicated when Cambodian Prime Minister Hun
Sen denied a request from Thai authorities to release the group, saying
they had trespassed on Cambodian territory and must stand trial.
Some people might wonder why the Cambodian leader was prepared to
take such an aggressive stand just one week after he was so
complimentary in talks with Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya at
celebrations in Phnom Penh marking 60 years of the Thai-Cambodian
It is known that Hun Sen has the power to order the release of the
captives if he wanted to maintain a good relationship with Thailand.
If Mr Panich had inspected the disputed area alone – in his role as
a member of the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) – things
might have been different.
But he went there with Mr Veera and other PAD members who led
protests against Cambodia over the ownership of the Preah Vihear
temple, which is a flashpoint for differences between the two countries.
Mr Panich’s role in this mission is not known. He might have tried
to act as a mediator between the Thai government and the PAD, which has
accused the Democrat Party-led coalition of surrendering Thai territory
to Cambodia by supporting the passage through parliament of three memos
on Thai-Cambodia border negotiations.
Hun Sen might believe Mr Panich, in his role representing the
Democrat-led government, had colluded with the PAD to interfere in the
border negotiations instead of leaving them to the JBC.
Hun Sen’s apparent dislike of the PAD would seem to rule out the early release of Mr Panich.
Foreign Minister Kasit, who met urgently with his Cambodian
counterpart, Hor Namhong, yesterday, needs to reassure the Cambodian
side that Mr Panich had nothing to do with the PAD and was not assigned
by the government to join the activists at the border.
The border problem is a sensitive one. Thai legal experts accept
that the area Mr Panich was visiting is one of 15 trouble spots.
It would be better for all concerned if the border problems were
left to the JBC to handle. That would allow space for the two countries
to work on fostering stronger bilateral relations.
Categories: Local News
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