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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.

Joint Cabinet meeting to discuss rice cartel

Posted by arnon_k On November - 17 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

Phnom Penh — Thailand and Vietnam will have a joint Cabinet meeting in February, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Wednesday.

The venue of the meeting has yet to be finalised.

Abhisit met his Vietnam PM Nguyen Tan Dung on the sidelines of the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (Acmecs) summit in Phnom Penh.

GUANGZHOU, Nov 12 — Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Friday that he and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao agreed to speed up negotiations to construct a high speed train system in Thailand.

Mr Abhisit met Mr Wen before attending the opening ceremony of the 16th Asian Games at Guangzhou which was staged in the middle of the Pearl River on Haixinsha Square.

This meeting was also the follow up after Mr Abhisit visited Beijing in June last year.

The Thai premier said during the discussion, both sides have agreed that during the past two years, the bilateral ties, trade and investment have run smoothly. Investment between two countries has incrased 50 per cent and Thai export value could possibly hit US$50,000 this year.

Both countries also agreed to draft five-year strategic economic development plan, he said.

Mr Abhisit said he has told Mr Wen that Thailand joint parliamentary meeting on Oct 26 has approved a proposed draft framework of Thailand-China negotiations to construct a high speed train system in Thailand.

The Chinese premier said the discussion should begin with the details of the routes and format of joint investment, he said.

The Thai prime minister also invited Mr Wen to visit Thailand to foster close relations between the two countries.

In this occasion, Mr Abhisit has witnessed the signing of a Letter of Intent (LOI) for promoting and distributing of Thai TV soap operas in China.

After attending opening ceremony of Asian Games, Mr Abhisit will leave for Japan to attend the 18th APEC Economic Leaders’ meeting will be held at Yokohama in Kanagawa Prefecture during Nov 13-14.

Thai court ruling stalls extradition of alleged Russian arms dealer to US

Thailand’s Criminal Court on Monday dropped a prosecutor’s request to withdraw the second round of charges on money laundering against alleged arms smuggler Viktor Bout, saying the defendant opposed the request, delaying the extradition of the wanted former Soviet air force officer to the United states.

An elusive Russian businessman dubbed “The Merchant of Death’, Mr Bout arrived at court Monday morning, wearing a bulletproof vest and under tightened security protection by Thai commandos.

Asked if he expected a fair trial in the US, Mr Bout shouted to reporters from a cell: “No! For sure no! Which fair trial are you talking about?”

The judges explained that since Thai extradition law did not stipulate about dropping legal procedures, therefore the court had to apply the Criminal Procedure Code, Article 35. Under the law, a defendant has the right to object to the charges against him being dropped, which Mr Bout decided to do to thwart any attempt to extradite him to the US.

As the court rejected the prosecutors’ request, the trial on money laundering and wire fraud will proceed. The judges, however, did not immediately set a date for the next hearing.

The Thai Court of Appeals ruled on August 20 to extradite Mr Bout, arrested and detained in Bangkok since March 2008, to the US to face charges of conspiracy to kill Americans, conspiracy to kill officials and employees of the United States government, conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles and conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organisation.

The ruling of the Thai Court of Appeals to extradite Mr Bout overturned a lower court ruling in August 2009 that rejected a US request that Mr Bout face trial there.

The extradition of the Merchant of Death however can’t proceed as Mr Bout faces a second case concerning money laundering and wire fraud charges which was accepted by Thailand’s Court of First Instance – at the earlier request of the US government.

The US government later requested the Thai foreign ministry that the charges be withdrawn in order to proceed with extradition. The Office of Attorney-General later agreed to seek court approval to withdraw the second charges as proposed by the US government.