A Change of Guard

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Wednesday, 27 February 2013

[Thai] Police to replace troops on Cambodian border

Thailand and Cambodia have agreed to replace border troops with police ahead of the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) oral hearings on the two countries’ territorial dispute.
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Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat (3rd right) discusses the border dispute with his Cambodian counterpart Gen Tea Banh (centre) at the Preah Vihear temple. WASSANA NANUAM

Sukumpol, Tea Banh agree on troop move

By Wassana Nanuam
Thailand and Cambodia have agreed to replace border troops with police ahead of the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) oral hearings on the two countries’ territorial dispute.

Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat yesterday said he reached the agreement with his Cambodian counterpart Tea Banh during a visit to the Preah Vihear temple, at the centre of the dispute involving 4.6 sq km of border land.

ACM Sukumpol said the bilateral redeployment shows the ICJ that both countries can handle the conflict in an amicable fashion.

Gen Tea Banh said Cambodia will replace troops with border patrol police and will keep Thailand informed.

He said it will probably happen before the ICJ’s oral hearings, which are scheduled for April 15-19.

‘‘Both of us agreed to mutual redeployment,’’ ACM Sukumpol said.

Gen Tea Banh said it is hard to say how the ICJ might rule when it decides on its reinterpretation of its 1962 judgement that the temple belongs to Cambodia.

However, he said he believed the ruling would be respected and did not expect any fighting to erupt if the court was to tell Thailand to withdraw from the disputed area.
Gen Tea Banh and ACM Sukumpol perform at religious rite at Preah Viharn.
ACM Sukumpol was accompanied by defence permanent secretary Gen Thanongsak Apirakyothin, army chief of staff Gen Udomdej Sitabutra and 2nd Army Region chief Lt Gen Jirasak Chomprasop.

The defence minister’s delegation visited border patrol police near Pha Mor E-Daeng on Thai soil before moving on to Cambodian territory, where they were greeted at Preah Vihear by Cambodian Deputy Defence Minister Nieng Pad.

Gen Tea Banh welcomed the Thai contingent at the temple.

About 80 Thai army officers were there ahead of the defence minister’s delegation.

‘‘This meeting shows the ICJ that Thailand and Cambodia are able to talk together to solve any dispute,’’ ACM Sukumpol said.

‘‘Thailand insists that problems can be solved with peace talks.’’

He added: ‘‘Initially, I wanted to invite [the Cambodian delegation] to Surin, but the arrangements didn’t go well, so here I am.’’

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday warned the government to take care not to commit any act that Cambodia could use to substantiate its claim over the disputed area at the border.

The opposition leader said he was not opposed to talks with Cambodia, but the government must consider the format, venue and content of any meetings carefully so the discussions do not end up compromising the national interest.

When reaching its 1962 verdict, the ICJ cited the visit of Prince of Siam Damrong Rajanubhab to the temple in 1930, where he was officially received by the French Resident for Preah Vihear province.

Cambodia was under French rule at the time.

The court said the prince and the Siamese delegation made no claim to the temple during the visit, which was a major factor in the 1962 ruling.

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