Preah Vihear Controversy
ACM Sukampol met Cambodian counterpart Tuesday
Thai Defence Minister ACM Sukampol Suwannathat on Tuesday held a meeting with his Cambodian counterpart near Preah Vihear Temple amidst concerns that Thailand is at a disadvantage over the adjacent disputed plot.Sukampol's entourage included Gen Thanongsak Apirakyothin, permanent secretary for Defence, Gen Nipat Thonglek, deputy permanent secretary for Defence, Gen Worapong Sanganet, deputy supreme commander, Gen Udomdet Sitabut, Army chief of staff, Lt Gen Worawit Darunchu, the commander of the Border Affairs Department, and representatives of other concerned government agencies.
Sukampol met Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Tea Banh and other Cambodian officials at a location near the Preah Vihear.
A wellinformed source from the Defence Ministry said the Foreign Ministry earlier recommended Sukampol to change the meeting venue after Tea Banh invited the Thai defence minister to a luncheon meeting to discuss the border dispute at Preah Vihear.
The Foreign Ministry feared that holding a meeting there would affect the case in the International Court of Justice. Cambodia has asked the court to rule whether the ancient temple's boundary includes the plot around it, over which Thailand is claiming sovereignty.
Sukampol asked Tea Banh to meet him at the Surin Majestic Hotel instead but Tea Banh threatened to cancel the talks so Sukampol agreed to meet him at Preah Vihear, the source said.
Speaking to reporters before leaving for Cambodia, Sukampol said he would visit Thai troops stationed near the border so he would take the opportunity to hold talks with Tea Banh.
Sukampol said the meeting would be a followup to the talks between Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen. The two met at the funeral of King Sihanouk on February 4 and the two prime minister assigned their defence ministers to hold further talks.
Sukampol said the two countries should settle their land dispute through talks as their borders would remain connected forever.
He said the talks should not cause Thailand to be at a disadvantage in the case. "If we worry about being at a disadvantage, we won't be able to do anything. If we are at a disadvantage, why should I go?" Sukampol said.