ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Thai –Cambodia border talks start wellBy David Swartzemtruber
Three days of bilateral talks between Cambodia and Thailand on a positive note ended on Thursday with progress and an improved atmosphere. This was the first meeting since Yingluck Shinawatra came to political power in Thailand. Yingluck’s elder brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, enjoys a good relationship with the prime minister of Cambodia Hun Sen.
News from the meeting is somewhat sketchy, but local media report that both countries had agreed to set up cooperation between their border forces. Other issues that were on the table included illegal border crossings, logging, drugs trafficking and counter terrorism.
A direct discussion on the demilitarized zone – set up around Preah Vihear temple following a decision by the United Nations International Court of Justice last month – was not on the agenda but could not be ruled out.
The Regional Border Commission meeting was co-chaired by Thawatchai Samutsakhon and Cambodia’s Fourth Army Commander Chea Mon and follows Yingluck’s election earlier this month.
Her rise to power may result in a more positive relationship between the two nations, Prime Minister Hun Sen described a “nightmare” period of diplomatic relations under her predecessor Abhisit Vejjajiva.
Newspapers quote Yingluck as saying she would coordinate with agencies to help two Thai nationals now serving prison sentences in Cambodia for spying.
Veera Somkwamkid, a well-known activist within Thailand’s nationalist Yellow Shirt movement, and his associate Ratree Pipatanapaiboon are serving eight and six-year prison terms in Cambodia respectively.
Although things were a bid rockier for the new Thai prime minister in Bangkok (see our Friday, August 26 News Update) the developments in the relationship with Cambodia are a relief to everyone, especially the Thai and Cambodia residents living on the border, whose lives were imperiled by the period of cross-border shelling that went on during the earlier period of heightened tensions.
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