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13 June 2009

Thai PM in Cambodia to restore ties

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Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva left Bangkok on Friday on an official visit to Cambodia to restore the normally close and cordial ties strained by renewed border clashes, especially by incidents near the ancient temple of Preah Vihear, according to Thailand News Agency (TNA).

The visit will show Thailand's determination to find ways and means to resolve outstanding issues in a spirit of good neighbourliness and as members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

The Thai prime minister will hold bilateral talks with his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen which are expected to cover a wide range of cooperation.

The issues to be discussed include land and maritime boundaries, cooperation on promoting peace and stability in border areas, development and use of land transport networks, energy cooperation, trade promotion, investment and tourism to collectively cope with the various challenges as a result of the global financial crisis.

This visit is not just a goodwill visit, but is also a testimony of Thailand's commitment to further strengthening of its bilateral relations and cooperation with Cambodia, according to the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Abhisit said earlier he wished to create trust and improve relations between the two countries, despite the past, frequent clashes which would enable the peoples of the respective countries to cooperate with each other more.

The latest armed clash between the Thai and Cambodian militaries took place on April 3 near the Preah Vihear temple, which has long been a source of tension between the two countries.

Abhisit will be granted a royal audience with His Majesty Norodom Sihamoni, Cambodia's monarch and will make courtesy visits with Senate President Chea Sim and National Assembly President Heng Samrin.

In addition, the two prime ministers will witness a ceremony to transfer seven pieces Khmer sculpture from Thailand's minister of foreign affairs to a representative of the Government of Cambodia.

The historic works of art hold religious and cultural significance for Cambodia and were smuggled into Thailand where they were intercepted and seized by the Thai authorities.

The return represents the application of an agreement between Cambodia and Thailand to counter illicit trafficking and the cross-border smuggling of "Movable Cultural Property" and to restore such items to the country of origin, a pact which was signed nine years ago 2000.

Abhisit said he would also meet the Thai business community in Cambodia, listen to their problems and that he would ask the Cambodian government to help protect their business interests.


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