Saturday, September 17, 2011

Abhisit calls for clarity on talks

Sept 17, 2011
Bangkok Post

The government should explain how it proposes to hold talks with Cambodia on overlapping maritime claims in the Gulf of Thailand, says opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Cambodia said on Thursday the two sides had agreed to hold talks based on a memorandum of understanding which was agreed in 2001 and then cancelled in 2009 under the Democrat-led Abhisit government.

"We'd like to know what the government plans to do," Mr Abhisit said.

The previous government cancelled the agreement, saying it suspected former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a past adviser to the Cambodian government, would benefit personally from the MoU.

"The government should decide on the framework for negotiations before submitting it to parliament for approval," said Mr Abhisit. The framework was broader than just the MoU itself, and would have to be open to public scrutiny.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra met her counterpart Hun Sen in Phnom Penh on Thursday, where the pair agreed to resume negotiations on the overlapping maritime border area.

The 2001 MoU, signed by the Thaksin administration and Cambodia, outlined a framework to settle the maritime dispute.

Ms Yingluck said the foreign minister would set up a committee to open discussions with Cambodia.

She said Phnom Penh is eager to repair relations following cross-border conflicts sparked by the Preah Vihear temple dispute this year.

"I will do everything to protect our sovereignty and interests," she added.

"I will abide by the law and everything will be straightforward and open to the public."

Ms Yingluck said the dispute over the overlapping area surrounding Preah Vihear temple must follow guidelines from the upcoming General Border Committee meeting.

She said Cambodia will replace soldiers in the area with police but a date has not yet been set.

The Hague-based International Court of Justice in July asked both nations to withdraw military personnel from around Preah Vihear, but neither side has pulled out yet.

Meanwhile, Noppadon Pattama, Thaksin's close aide, said yesterday the former premier was in Cambodia to give a lecture, not to discuss oil and gas interests as claimed by the opposition.

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