A Change of Guard

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Sunday, 8 August 2010

PM eases protesters' worries

1907 map drawn by the Mixed Franco-Siamese Commission in 1908 and accepted by Thai king. Pay attention to the right map- line above green area is drawn by 1907 treaty and line below green area is line drawn by Thailand in 1962.

By The Nation on Sunday
Published on August 8, 2010

Abhisit assuages yellow-shirt worries about 2000 MoU with Cambodia; Rebel PAD faction defies emergency and rallies in front of Govt House

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday managed to pacify thousands of yellow-shirt protesters who had earlier demanded that the government annul a memorandum of understanding with Cambodia on border demarcation.

The protesters also voiced opposition to Cambodia's unilateral inscription of the Preah Vihear Temple as a World Heritage Site.

Border demarcation and the Preah Vihear Temple inscription are related issues.

Abhisit said Cambodia was unsuccessful in trying to use its own maps for its Preah Vihear management plan at the recent Unesco meeting in Brazil because of the Thai government's protest on the ground that the boundary demarcation was not finished yet.

The use of Cambodia's maps could have hurt Thailand's national interests, he said.

The premier told the protesters that the MoU signed in 2000 with Cambodia during the tenure of former premier Chuan Leekpai was just an agreement for both countries to start the process of border demarcation.

Essentially, it means that neither country is allowed to use the disputed territories until the border demarcation is finished.

The premier will today hold a further three-hour discussion with yellow-shirts and other civic-society groups on the sensitive Preah Vihear issue.

The discussion will be nationally televised on Channel 11 from 10am to 1pm to inform the general public of the pros and cons of the 2000 MoU on border demarcation and other crucial points concerning Preah Vihear.

Five yellow-shirt and other non-government organisation representatives will join five government representatives, including the premier, and Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti.

The premier said any discussions on this issue should be based on the nation's best interest.

Yesterday's yellow-shirt rally was led by People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) leader Chamlong Srimuang and supported by his Dharma Army Foundation.

Another PAD faction, led by Veera Somkwamkid and Chaiwat Sinsuwong, last night stayed overnight at the rally site in front of the First Army Area headquarters.

Chaiwat will join today's discussion with Abhisit and other government representatives after the premier yesterday attended a protesters' forum at Bangkok's Thai-Japanese Stadium.

Abhisit thanked the thousands of cheering crowds and reassured them that his government would do its best to protect national interests.

Four companies of police were deployed to keep security at the Thai-Japanese Stadium.

Abhisit also told the protesters that Thailand had lost Preah Vihear Temple to Cambodia following the World Court's 1962 ruling.

"If you're talking about wanting it back, I have no different desire from you. We lost the temple in BE 2505, during Field Marshal Sarit [Thanrat]," Abhisit said.

"Back then, Field Marshal Sarit reserved the country's right to reclaim ownership of Preah Vihear once we have evidence to prove the temple is ours."

He said Thailand would explain to Unesco over the next year about its objection to Cambodia's management plan of the Preah Vihear temple based on the ground that such a move would violate Thailand's territorial rights as far as land plots next to the temple were concerned.

Earlier yesterday, some protesters led by Veera and Chaiwat were rallying near Government House and vowed to remain there for seven days in defiance of the state of emergency.

The two protest leaders refused to disperse and move to the Thai-Japanese Stadium as senior police and military officers came to talk to them at 8.30am.

The confrontation started at 9am when crowd-control police formed lines and moved towards the protesters from Likhit Road beside Benjamabophit School.

The protesters later agreed to move to the First Army Area headquarters at 11am.

Chaiwat told the demonstrators to move away from the area in front of Government House, saying the demonstrators did not want to clash with police and troops.

Veera said the demonstrators would return to rally in front of Government House in another week if their demand for the government to annul the 2000 MoU with Cambodia was not met.

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