Thanasak agrees with Thaksin's temple plan
Preah Vihear area would be mutually developed
Wassana Nanuam & Manop Thip-Osod
Supreme Commander Thanasak Patimapakorn has agreed to a proposal by exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to jointly develop the 4.6sq km disputed border area around the Preah Vihear temple.
Gen Thanasak made the statement after Thaksin, in a recent interview with the Bangkok Post, said that while he was prime minister, he had offered his Cambodian counterpart a joint development plan to turn the area into a tourism spot.
Thaksin also said Noppadon Pattama, the foreign minister at that time, should not have supported Cambodia's application, which has put Thailand at a disadvantage in the border row.
Gen Thanasak said joint cooperation between the two neighbouring countries would benefit both sides.
It would be more useful to develop the spot for mutual benefit, he said.
However, details must be thrashed out on how to jointly develop the area.
Thailand and Cambodia have been engaged in a dispute over the sovereignty of the land surrounding the temple.
A conflict arose between the countries when Cambodia applied to register the temple as a World Heritage site with Unesco in 2009. The Thai government, then under the premiership of the late Samak Sundaravej, supported Cambodia's application.
That led the Cambodian government to ask to develop the temple and the 4.6sq km area around it to meet World Heritage Commission requirements.
Gen Thanasak also talked about the progress of the formation of the Thai-Cambodian Joint Working Group (JWG).
He said Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had appointed people from relevant agencies to sit on the JWG. The Thai working group is led by Royal Thai Armed Forces' chief of staff Worapong Sa-nganet.
On July 18 last year, the International Court of Justice ruled that the two countries must withdraw their troops from the 17.3 sq km demilitarised zone, of which 8.5 sq km is in Thailand and 8.8 sq km lies in Cambodia. The JWG will work out details of the military withdrawal from the provisional demilitarised zone ordered by the ICJ.
This provisional order led the countries to host talks at the General Border Committee on Dec 21 in Cambodia.
They set up a joint working group to discuss the troop withdrawals but have not yet set a timeframe.
Gen Thanasak said the JWG would reconsider the provisional demilitarised zone and stressed that Thai authorities would make sure Thailand's sovereignty remains intact and the country would not be at a disadvantage.
Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said Thailand is at a disadvantage as a result of its support for Cambodia's application.
Mr Abhisit said Thaksin had made it clear he wanted to do business in the energy-rich overlapping marine area claimed by Thailand and Cambodia.
Thailand would be at a disadvantage if the government's policy is driven by such a hidden agenda, Mr Abhisit said.
Democrat spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut warned the party will take legal action against the Foreign Ministry if it resubmits the controversial 2001 memorandum of understanding (MoU) on maritime boundaries for cabinet approval. The MoU, jointly signed by the Thaksin administration and Cambodia, outlined a framework for settling maritime disputes in the Gulf of Thailand.
The Abhisit government revoked the agreement in 2009 after Thaksin was appointed as an adviser to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.