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Protesters rally against Cambodia

Posted by arnon_k On December - 31 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

Members of the Thailand Patriot Network on Friday rallied in front of Cambodia embassy in Bangkok calling for the Cambodian government to immediately release the detained seven Thais, reports said.

The protesters, led by core leader Somboon Thongburan, burned a coffin attached with photo of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. They vowed to continue rallying in front of Government House until all Thais are freed.

About 50 policemen were deployed at the embassy building compound to maintain law and order.

Thais held in Cambodian jail

Posted by arnon_k On December - 31 - 2010 1 COMMENT

Hun Sen turns deaf ear to Abhisit’s demands
Phnom Penh is refusing to release seven Thais being held for trespassing on Cambodian territory despite Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva demanding they be granted their freedom.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya yesterday afternoon made an urgent visit to Phnom Penh for talks with his counterpart, Hor Namhong, on securing the release of the seven who include a government MP.

But Phnom Penh Municipal Court decided yesterday to press ahead with charges against the Thais.

The defendants, including Democrat Party MP for Bangkok Panich Vikitsreth, appeared at a closed-door hearing at the court, a day after being detained near the border dividing Thailand and Cambodia.

“The court has charged them with illegally crossing the border … and entering a military area with ill will,” deputy prosecutor Sok Roeun said.

If convicted on the two counts, the seven could face up to 18 months in jail. It was unclear when the next hearing in the case would be held.

A sombre Panich and the rest of his entourage were taken from the court by police officers.

Interior ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said they were taken to Prey Sar prison on the outskirts of the capital.

The incident has rekindled diplomatic tensions between the neighbouring countries which centre on a long-standing border dispute.

Mr Abhisit said yesterday morning he had demanded the immediate release of the seven Thais and said they must not be taken to court in Cambodia as this could hurt the ties between the two countries after they were beginning to show signs of improvement.

“No matter where they were arrested, we think the seven persons should be released immediately,” Mr Abhisit said.

“The two governments had held talks and agreed that if such incidents did occur, no arrests would be made and nobody would be taken to court,” the prime minister said.

“Otherwise, this would only further complicate the border problems.”

Hor Namhong told reporters after his meeting with Mr Kasit that he had said there would be “no release” of the Thais just yet.

“Let the court continue with the legal procedure as normal … the government cannot do anything,” he said.

The seven Thais were arrested about 10am on Wednesday near Ban Nong Jarn in Sa Kaeo’s Khok Sung district while inspecting a disputed border area.

Arrested with Mr Panich were People’s Alliance for Democracy co-leader Veera Somkwamkid, PAD activist Samdin Lertbutr, Tainae Mungmajon and three others identified only as Muay, Uan and Sab.

The PAD is a pressure group which led protests against Cambodia over the ownership of the Preah Vihear temple on the disputed border.

Assistant to the foreign minister Chavanond Intarakomalyasut said yesterday Thailand asked Cambodia to consider the case prudently as the seven Thais had no intention of encroaching on Cambodian territory.

Mr Chavanond said the two foreign ministers had examined evidence as well as the area where the Thais were arrested.

It was found the seven Thais had strayed about 1,200 metres into Cambodian territory. It was clearly marked as a Cambodian area, he said

“Foreign Minister Kasit made a visit to the seven Thais in prison,” said Mr Chavanond, who accompanied Mr Kasit on the visit to Phnom Penh.

More than 100 Thais gathered yesterday at Thao Suranari Monument in Nakhon Ratchasima to protest against Cambodia’s detention of the seven Thais.

They burned an effigy of Hun Sen and demanded Cambodia release the Thais immediately.

Mr Abhisit said he had instructed Mr Panich to inspect the disputed area in Ban Nong Jarn after local people had complained of Cambodian troops encroaching on their farmland.

An army source said some among the military top brass were unhappy with the incident.

Senior officers questioned whether the seven had intentionally strayed into Cambodian territory.

They also said the seven should have asked border police or soldiers to accompany them while inspecting the disputed area.

Border to reopen near temple

Posted by arnon_k On December - 1 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

2nd Army chief rejects idea of any troop cuts
Thailand and Cambodia are looking set to reopen their border crossings near the disputed Preah Vihear temple this week after a lengthy closure, an army source says.

The governor of Si Sa Ket and the Cambodian governor of Preah Vihear province have discussed the matter and are expected to reopen the crossings near the ancient Hindu temple and a nearby disputed, 4.6 square kilometre area on Friday, the source said yesterday.

This would be the first time both the Thai and Cambodian crossings have been open simultaneously since July 2008, when the Preah Vihear temple was granted Unesco world heritage status under Cambodian stewardship.

Second Army Region commander Thawatchai Samutsakhon yesterday insisted no troop withdrawals from the disputed area had or would take place.

The outcome of the last meeting of the Thai-Cambodian General Border Committee (GBC) in Pattaya in October was only that both sides would adjust the positioning of their troops in the disputed area to lessen tensions, Lt Gen Thawatchai said.

“Cambodia wants us to reduce troops but we cannot just do so alone [without reciprocal action from Cambodia]. Besides, we’re not confident in the situation,” he said.

The number of Thai troops in the area, which he refused to disclose, would not be changed but they would be moved to another location nearby.

“We’re not going to retreat, especially from Wat Kaew Sikha Khiri Sawara [the temple at the foot of the mountain where the disputed Preah Vihear temple is located] where Thai and Cambodian troops are positioned together.”

“Cambodia should also clear [their troops and weapons] from the Preah Vihear temple.”

The 2nd Army commander said he had been told by the Cambodian military during recent talks that Cambodia planned to soon reopen the road leading up to the Preah Vihear temple to tourists.

Thailand reopened the steep Mo E-daeng cliff near the Preah Vihear temple, which is the route leading to the temple on the Thai side of the border, a few weeks ago.

Both sides were trying to ease border tensions in order to boost tourism, Lt Gen Thawatchai said.

Another army source said Thailand and Cambodia maintained about 3,000 troops each in the disputed area.

In a related development, a new visa agreement between Thailand and Cambodia will take effect on Dec 16.

Thai and Cambodian citizens will be able to travel between the two countries without a visa and stay up to 14 days from the date of entry.