Home > Local News > Military flexes its muscle [ Abhisit approves army exercise near temple ]

Military flexes its muscle [ Abhisit approves army exercise near temple ]

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has given the army the green light to
conduct a military exercise near Preah Vihear temple to display its
strength as Cambodia continues to lay claim to the disputed area.
Thousands of People’s Alliance for Democracy supporters join the
movement’s protest near Makkhawan Rangsan Bridge on Ratchadamnoen Nok
Avenue. The yellow shirts gathered yesterday for the first day of what
is expected to be a protracted rally. APICHIT JINAKUL
The provocative move came after Thailand demanded Cambodia remove a
stone tablet carrying a message in Khmer that accused Thai troops of
invading Cambodia territory from that spot.
A senior army source who asked not to be named said yesterday the military exercise near the border was proposed by the army.
Thai gamblers would also be blocked from visiting Cambodian casinos
close to Thai territory if Phnom Penh refused demands to remove the
tablet.
Army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha said Thailand would follow proper procedures in handling border disputes with Cambodia.
”There are three steps to solving border issues. They include
negotiations, intensified measures and the use of force. We will not
move directly from Step 1 to Step 3,” Gen Prayuth said.
The tablet was installed in front of Wat Kaew Sikha Khiri Sawara temple, about 300 metres from the ancient Preah Vihear temple.
”We must show our strength,” the source quoted the prime minister
as saying in his recent meeting with Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon
and Gen Prayuth.
The source said Gen Prayuth planned to deploy infantrymen close to Preah Vihear in Kantharalak district of Si Sa Ket province.
The deployment will reinforce paramilitary rangers who are guarding a disputed area with no back-up.
”The army plans to conduct a drill that includes artillery fire close to the border,” the source said.
The source revealed the military exercise was aimed at sending a
message to Cambodia that Thailand is not only unhappy with the
placement of the stone tablet in the disputed area but also Cambodia’s
continuing construction of a road to Preah Vihear.
The 3.6-kilometre road is being built on the 4.6-square-kilometre disputed area next to Preah Vihear.
Cambodia has ignored Thailand’s re peated protests against the
roadworks. The source said Cambodia and China were accelerating the
work on the road with the aim to facilitate visits to the Preah Vihear
temple from the Cambodian side.
The source said Mr Abhisit also gave the nod to the army to prevent
Thai gamblers from crossing the border to visit Cambodian casinos in
Poi Pet, opposite Aranyaprathet district of Sa Kaeo province.
The source said the prime minister did not mention the possibility of border closure which would seriously affect local people.
As well as two Thai people: Veera Somkwamkid and Ratree
Pipatanapaiboon who were prosecuted allegedly for trespassing and
espionage on Cambodian soil. Mr Veera is still detained and verdicts on
their cases are expected on Feb 1.
Mr Abhisit was also said to have agreed to allow the army to buy weapons it needed to handle the border situation.
The nationalist People’s Alliance for Democracy yesterday urged the
gov ernment to use the country’s stronger military capacity to gain
leverage over the Cambodian government in its negotiations with Phnom
Penh on disputed border areas.
Maj Gen Chamlong Srimuang, a core PAD leader, said the Thai military
did not have to wage a war with Cambodia to regain Thai sovereignty
over disputed areas along the border.
But it could use the country’s military might to gain a stronger bargaining position.
The government has not tried to gain such leverage through the
demonstration of Thailand’s military capacity, Maj Gen Chamlong said.
”Consequently, it has allowed the Cambodian government to have the upper hand,” he said.
”Our fighter jets can reach Cambodian skies in five minutes.”
Asked if such a demonstration of Thailand’s military might would
hurt the country’s bilateral relationship with its neighbour, Maj Gen
Chamlong replied: ”What are you afraid of more? Hurting the ties or
losing territory?”
PAD spokesman Panthep Phongphuaphan said Thailand’s military capacity was certainly higher than that of Cambodia.
The government should use this advantage in its effort to protect
the country’s sovereignty and pressure the Cambodian government to move
Cambodian communities out of the disputed areas along the border.
More importantly, Thailand should revoke the 2000 memorandum of
understanding with Cambodia as the agreement gave Phnom Penh greater
negotiating powers and enabled Cambodians to continue living on Thai
soil, Mr Panthep said.

New tablet ‘even worse’

Cambodian troops have removed a stone tablet placed near the Preah
Vihear temple carrying a message accusing Thailand of invading the
country.
But the tablet has been replaced with another that could ratchet up
the tension even further between the two countries. It simply states
the area is part of Cambodia.
The first tablet put in place last month at Wat Kaew Sikha Khiri
Sawara, next to the Preah Vihear temple, read, according to the Phnom
Penh Post: “Here! is the place where Thai troops invaded Cambodian
territory on July 15, 2008.”
This angered Thai troops, their commanders and Prime Minister
Abhisit Vejjajiva, who claim the temple is located in a disputed area
open to Thai troops.
A Cambodian armed forces officer who asked not to be named said the offending sign had been replaced, Phnom Penh Post reported.
Whether the new sign will be received any more favourably remains to be seen.
“Here! is Cambodia,” reads the sign erected yesterday.
“I heard [the placement of the sign] was ordered by Prime Minister Hun Sen,” the officer said.
Bangkok Post
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Categories: Local News
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