NSC backs joint development of disputed temple zone
National Security Council secretary-general Paradorn Pattanathabutr said yesterday that the agency would promote joint Thai-Cambodian development of the disputed area around Preah Vihear Temple, adding that if the International Court of Justice (ICJ) rules that the 4.6-square-kilometre area belongs to Cambodia, Thailand must respect the decision."If we stick to our principles as a member of the United Nations and the world community, we must respect the court's decision for the sake of peace, otherwise the matter will snowball into a big issue,'' he said.
However, Paradorn said he was still optimistic about the case, adding that it is likely the court will decline to accept the case, or, if it does, decline to rule on whether the disputed area belongs to either country.
"What both countries want is peace. If there is a problem, there will certainly be negative consequences, but if we bring about joint development, it would be a better way out,'' he said.
Paradorn made the comments after a meeting of top officials working on the Preah Vihear case headed by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
A security source said a representative from the Thai military reported to the meeting that while there had been no further clashes between the two countries in the disputed zone, Cambodia had violated a memorandum of understanding signed in 2000 by building two houses near Wat Kaewsika. The Thai military had sent two letters of protest to Cambodia, but the houses remain standing.
Paradorn was not concerned about political rallies over the Preah Vihear case. "At this stage, the government has a good approval rating. Although there have been attempts by the same old groups to stage a movement, local people in Si Sa Ket [province, opposite the temple] do not want that, as they want to live in peace. Since the current government took power, local trade and the local economy is booming. Locals say they do not want rallies. We are going to live in the Asean economy, which will force us to live together peacefully,'' he said.
The military has suggested the Foreign Ministry file a complaint with the ICJ seeking an injunction before the trial starts, the source said.
The prime minister will opt for bilateral negotiations with the Cambodian government to prevent confrontations, the source said.
Democrat Party deputy leader Thaworn Senneam said that if the government believed it has a good rapport and strong ties with the Cambodian government, it should ask Phnom Penh to withdraw the case and settle out of court.
Over the past year, the government had done nothing to protest Cambodia's move, even though Phnom Penh had issued a statement on the disputed zone that distorted the facts, Thaworn said.
He criticised Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul for making excuses ahead of time, such as by stating that the result of the case would be either a "tie" or a loss for Thailand.
The government had only rushed to act on the case after political groups demanded the government protect the country's sovereignty, Thaworn said.