Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hun Sen tells troops to remain calm at border

Published: 7/11/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday ordered his troops to maintain peaceful relations with Thai soldiers on the other side of the border.

As a result, military leaders of the two countries have agreed not to reinforce their troops along the border, says Second Army commander Lt Gen Weewalit Chornsamrit.

Hun Sen's message was conveyed to him by Cambodia's deputy supreme commander Gen Chea Dara and 3rd supportive division commander Lt Gen Sarai Duek.

They met at the Khao Phra Viharn National Park tourist centre in Si Sa Ket province about 4pm yesterday.

After the meeting, Lt Gen Weewalit said the Cambodian delegation was ordered by Hun Sen to hold talks with the Second Army and to ask the Thai army to stay calm and continue to maintain good relations.

Hun Sen's message was that soldiers should sidestep any politically sensitive issues. Such matters could only be solved through diplomatic channels and not by the border authorities.

Cambodian leaders have made it clear they do not plan to send any reinforcements and have left it in the hands of Gen Chea Dara and Lt Gen Sarai Duek to decide what should be done to enhance security at the border, said the Second Army chief.

Neither is there any sign of 4,000 troops being rushed to the Preah Vihear temple as some media outlets have reported, he said.

He advised people along the border not to be too concerned by the current dispute as the local situation remained normal. He was reassured by the fact that the Cambodian officers who visited him were all high-ranking officers.

Meanwhile, joint chief of staff Gen Ratchakrit Kanchanawat said even after the recalling of their ambassadors, relations between the respective defence ministries remained sound and there would soon be negotiations to prevent the situation from getting out of control.

He said the government and the National Security Council would direct further actions and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva would discuss the issue with the council soon.

He does not expect Thai authorities to call for the evacuation of Thais from Cambodia as happened during events that led up to the burning of the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh in 2003.

"Such incidents are unlikely to be repeated because that lesson should have taught Cambodia to have preventive measures in place. I don't believe the situation would deteriorate into a war," Gen Ratchakrit said.

However, a senior government source said the Thai military was ready to evacuate Thai nationals if needed.

"The air force will deploy C-130 aircraft which would be escorted by fighter jets to pick up the Thais in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap from secret meeting points," said the source.

The navy has raised the number of vessels patrolling disputed waters from three to five and increased the frequency of patrols.

Cambodia has two vessels patrolling the disputed areas.

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