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Asean Affairs  5 January 2011

Border blunders

By  David Swartzentruber

AseanAffairs     5 January 2011

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Just when it seemed that border tensions between Thailand and Cambodia had simmered down, seven Thai men, including a sitting MP, crossed into Cambodia.

The seven men now face charges of entering Cambodia illegally and going into a Cambodian military-controlled area without permission. They were arrested by Cambodian soldiers December 29. The group includes Democrat MP for Bangkok Panich Vikitsreth and Veera Somkwamkid, a leading member of the People's Alliance for Democracy.

They entered Cambodia to inspect an area that a Thai villager claimed was part of Thailand. The border between Thailand and Cambodia remains sketchy partly because of the existence of unexploded land mines in many of the border areas, making it risky business to accurately set the border.

Cambodian authorities refused to release the group because a member of the group, Mr. Veera, had previously entered Cambodia. It’s reported by news media that the seven are set to be questioned in Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday, a lawyer said. Ros Aun, an attorney representing Thai MP Panich Vikitsreth and two other defendants, said he was unsure of the start date for the trial, but he hoped to secure his clients’ release in the interim.

The Cambodian walk was not just a random stroll as Thailand’s Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva admitted sending Panich to investigate the border. Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn reportedly later said Abhisit was not aware that the group had crossed into Cambodia.

A Bangkok Post editorialist described the escapade as “foolhardy adventurism” and an unnecessary strain on relations between the two countries.

The episode demonstrates incredibly poor judgment in undertaking this foolhardy escapade which will only ratchet up the tensions between the neighboring countries.

Paul A. Ebeling, Jnr

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This year in Thailand-what next?

04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More

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