New developments in the Thai-Cambodia conflict
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New developments in the Thai-Cambodia conflict

By Thorn Pitidol

To those who may have missed this breaking news from yesterday (Dec, 29), the Cambodian army have arrested and detained seven Thais who they said had illegally crossed the border into Cambodian territory. The seven Thais who were arrested include two well-known PAD members, Veera Somkwamkit and Samdin Lertbutr, wh0 were both prominent figures in the PAD rally over the Preah Vihear issues. Another high-profile man who was arrested is the newly elected MP Panich Vikitsreth of the Democrat Party.

The Thais have been taken to Phanom Penh, and are now detained in prison there. They are now facing a trial in the Cambodian Court for the charge of illegally crossing the border.

From the news earlier today (December 30), Panich gave an interview through telephone with The Nation that he and the group were inspecting the border dispute issue at Ban Nong Chan village in Sa-Kaeo Province. The Thais subsequently found themselves being taken into custody by a group of nine Cambodian soldiers. Panich, however, asserted that he and the group had not crossed the border into Cambodian territory. “I believe that the location where I was inspecting is under Thai sovereignty,” he told The Nation.

More details about this can be found from here and here.

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A Thai activist, Veera Somkwamkid, a core leader of Yellow Shirt, right, escorted by Cambodian court security personnel, at Phnom Penh Municipal Court, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010. Pic: AP.

The Thai government is now negotiating with the Cambodian government for the release of the seven Thais. However, negotiations have not progressed well. Deputy PM Suthep Thaugsuban said that this is because one of the arrested, Veera Somkwamkit, has previously been arrested before for the same charge of illegally crossing the border. However, back then Veera was released after a lengthy negotiation. This time, however, it seems the Cambodian government have not let the issue end that easily.

The ASTV-Manager website has been following the issue closely. It has recently reported that PM Abhisit has issued the request for the Cambodian government to release the Thais immediately. Abhisit has just sent the Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya to Cambodia to speak with the Cambodian Foreign Minister on the issue. Abhisit, however, has still reserved his opinion on whether the seven Thais have actually crossed the border or not. He said;

“If the arrest was made in the Thai territory, then that would definitely be unacceptable. However, the Cambodian said the arrest was made beyond the Thai boundary monument…At the moment, the Foreign Ministry have sent officers into the area to investigate on this.”

The Ministry of Defence Minister, General Pravit Wongsuwan, said the area that the group of Thais went into has been occupied by the Cambodians for a long time, and it is quite clear that the area belongs to Cambodia. However, he also said that the area is still under dispute since the Thai government still refuse to acknowledge the Cambodian boundary moment there.

TP: This could be the hottest political issue for the upcoming New Year period. It also seems that the timing and the nature of this issue will be the perfect platform for the PAD’s planned major rally on January, 25, 2011. The PAD have already planned to rally on the issue of border disputes with Cambodia anyway. It is interesting to also note that the Thai army, who should know really well about the status of the area and the location where the seven Thais set foot into, still have not released any comment or statement.