[Thai] Press briefing on the current Thai-Cambodian issues
April 30, 2011, 9:00 am
On 28 April 2011, Mr. Thani Thongphakdi, Director-General of the Department of Information and Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, together with Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd, Spokesperson of the Army, gave a press briefing to the media on the current Thai-Cambodian border situation. Gist as follow:
1. Historical records have shown that Ta Kwai Temple and Ta Muen Temples, situated around 140 kilometers from the Phra Viharn Temple, are in Thailand, and that they have both been listed as Thailand’s national heritage sites since 1935. Also, since the early 1990s, the Thai authorities have been renovating the Temples complex. Cambodian reports that Thailand has been shelling these temples therefore make no sense.
2. The fact is that Thailand has never initiated clashes with Cambodia. The country has no reason or rationale to do so, considering its trade with and investment in Cambodia as well as what the country has been doing to enhance cooperation, to assist and to promote the creation of an ASEAN Community.
3. Be that as it may, if attacked, Thailand has to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity in accordance with international law and proportionately, directing fire only at military targets and taking great care to avoid civilian areas. In this regard, it should be noted that Cambodia had occasionally fired artillery from populated areas into Thailand, and that Thailand had refrained from retaliating into those areas for fear of causing civilian casualties. This practice of using civilians as a “human shield” is of great concern and the international community should look into it.
4. Prior to the 22 April incident, satisfactory progress had been made, notably with regard to the meeting of the Joint Boundary Commission in Bogor, Indonesia on 7-8 April 2011 and the discussions of the draft Terms of Reference (TOR) for the dispatch of the Indonesian observers to the Thai and Cambodian sides of the border. The attacks on 22 April therefore came as a surprise, and Thailand has since called on Cambodia to return to the negotiating table to end the dispute through peaceful dialogue.
5. Regarding the meeting between the Thai and Cambodian Defence Ministers, although Thailand had wanted this to take place, the Cambodian side had failed to show its sincerity by ceasing hostilities. While the Cambodian side said they were ready to talk, attacks continued on the ground. Furthermore, the proposed visit was distorted and played up in Cambodia, which portrayed that the Thai side was going to Cambodia to seek a halt of hostilities given the casualties suffered by the Thai side. Thailand, nevertheless, hopes that this meeting between the two Defence Ministers will take place in the near future when conditions are conducive.
6. Regarding the issue of Indonesian observers, it should be recalled that it was at Thailand’s initiative and invitation that the observers would be sent to the area near the Phra Viharn Temple. This decision was made at the meeting between the Thai prime minister, defence minister, foreign minister and army commander-in-chief, held two days before the Informal ASEAN Foreign Minister’s Meeting on 22 February 2011 in Jakarta. Since then, discussions on the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the Indonesia observers have been on-going. Being an open society, Thailand’s consultation process may take time. At present, most part of the TOR has been agreed upon with only a few technical points remaining, such as the issue of privileges and immunities for the Indonesian observers.
7. It is regrettable that the Thai cabinet decision of 26 April 2011 has been distorted by press announcements by Cambodia as being a declaration of war. In fact, the said cabinet decision made three points, namely that: (1) if attacked, Thailand would respond in self-defence to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity in accordance with international law as appropriate; (2) Thailand would undertake diplomatic efforts to seek the support of friendly countries to urge Cambodia to return to the negotiating table as border issues should be addressed and resolved peacefully through negotiations; and (3) relevant government agencies have been asked to review the status of their relationship with Cambodia, so that the Government could have a clear picture of the current state of the relations between the two countries.
8. Regarding talks between the 2nd Army Regional Commander of Thailand and the 4th Regional Commander of Cambodia on 28 April 2011, this took place after the Ministers of Defence of the two countries spoke on the phone. Both sides would propose to their respective superiors that any hostilities should end, and that for areas where there continues to be some shooting, local commanders should talk to end hostilities as soon as possible. Another issue raised is the reopening of international border passes which, due to the present situation, had to be closed temporarily. While there is yet no official confirmation, the statement made by the Cambodian side is a positive step forward.
9. As for the question whether the latest border incidents would affect the election date, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has stated that he will continue with his schedule for the dissolution of the House of Representatives, which is early May.
29 April 2011