Usually, after such a mission to foreign country, it is the foreign minister who will have to brief all of you of what have been achieved. This time we have two major parts. The part I am giving you is in relation to the Cambodian-Thai relations, whereas HE Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong will brief you on the first summit between Japan and countries that are members of the Mekong River.
I would start with the border situation between Cambodia and Thailand which is relatively calm. This allows us to withdraw, within a week, our brigade 911 of paratroopers from the Preah Vihear area and place them back in their barrack. You may have asked me a question as to why the Prime Minister is commanding a withdrawal of the Cambodian troop from the area at a time when there is tension along the Cambodian-Thai birder. I wish to stress here today that it is not indeed an issue between the people of Cambodia and the people of Thailand as a whole. It also is not a tension that is caused by armies from both sides. In the past five months, after the visit of Abhisit Vijjajiva to the area, tension seems to have risen only between Bangkok and Phnom Penh, and caused by Bangkok alone.
As far as the two armies at the border are concerned they have developed a better understanding and also in cases, have made good cooperation as well. They have conducted joint border patrols and also practicing sports altogether too. The situation has indeed allowed us to reduce number of troops in the Preah Vihear area. In the first phase, we have brought back in the brigade 11 and the armed forces under the supervision of Siemreap province and Kompong Thom and 50% of the forces from the bodyguard unit. We have now come to a confidence that withdrawal of the Brigade 911 is possible. We also ask for an understanding from the Brigade 1 to stay until further notice. This has indicated that the border situation between the two countries – Cambodia and Thailand, through to the border of three countries – Cambodia, Thailand and Laos, has returned to detent.
The Preah Vihear area is no longer embraced with tension except some remaining issues to be resolved, and the two sides have committed to avoid armed conflict and military confrontation. This should not be understood to have happened because of the pressure put by the yellow-shirted demonstrators who had surrounded the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok demanding the so-called withdrawal of the Cambodian troops from overlapping area, which we do not even know where that was. The yellow-shirted protestors should not by any means understand the withdrawal to be a bow to their cause. Troop movement and adjustment in the Cambodian territory has nothing to do with no one’s will but only a decision made by the Royal Government of Cambodia and the Cambodian armed forces.
I wish that the pressmen and historians take a good note on the following. Prime Minister of Thailand Abhisit Vijjajiva has in fact met with me three times – firstly, at Hua Hin in February, secondly, at Pattaya in April, and thirdly, his visit to Phnom Penh in June. We have come to an understanding that both sides will use bilateral mechanism at all levels to resolve on contentious issues. What has been the most regrettable thing here is that while an approval is given by hand signature, it is noticed that foot has been used to disapproval it. It is tangible as when he returned to Thailand, there was this move to raise again issue of Preah Vihear.
They have requested formally UNESCO to remove the Preah Vihear temple from the World Heritage registration. They sent a big delegation to Italy, where the World Heritage Committee conducted its meeting in an attempt to revise the issue. This could be asked if it is a substance or nature of sideshow from this Prime Minister’s part that he used his foot to disrespect what he has approved with his hand. He have come to a conclusion that all should be settled through bilateral means but he happened to have raised the issue directly to UNESCO, which I am sure is understood by all to internationalize the Cambodian-Thai issue.
They then said there is nothing to do with the conflict between Thailand and Cambodia but a matter to be followed up between Thailand and UNESCO. How can we understand this matter? The temple belongs to Cambodia, but they said it is a matter between Thailand and UNESCO. That was a heinous insult that the Prime Minister (of Thailand) did.
Later, on September 19, when the yellow-shirted protestors came toward Preah Vihear, Prime Minister Abhisit himself met with the Secretary General of the United Nations and raised this issue of border tension that it is caused by the registration of the temple by UNESCO as the World Heritage. That has prompted Cambodia to take a stand that if the matter has come this far, the issue should be brought up for ASEAN. At the time there was this rumor that Minister of Foreign Affairs Kasit Phiromya proposed an arbitration to resolve the case. Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong wrote him a letter asking him to get the issue down on the ASEAN Summit agenda.
Up to this stage, they have rebuked the press for misquoting. It is the press rule that if they misquoted, the Bangkok Post and other Thai media, they could have run a correction note. None has been done so far. However, I have brought my patience to a high level that I did not raise this issue at the ASEAN Summit. If it were to be done so, the summit would have had its failure and I think I have thought of saving Thai image as a country.
Yesterday, we have seen a letter written by Surin Pitsuwan, General Secretary of ASEAN, to ASEAN foreign ministers proposing for a consideration by all ASEAN member countries. I welcome whatever ASEAN mechanism that could come out and intervene in the matter. As an initiative, I propose that the whole package of issue should be resolved. The issue has involved the problem of Thaksin today. It should start from September 19, 2006, when Thaksin was ousted from power by a coup through to when there followed by invasion on Cambodia and the appointment of Thaksin as economic advisor to the Prime Minister and Royal Government of Cambodia. So this is how the whole issue should be resolved as a package.
I wish that HE Surin Pitsuwan get a good grasp of it. HE Surin Pitsuwan used to be Foreign Minister of Thailand too and he also had acted within the troika framework on the Cambodian issue as well. So HE should bring the matter up as there has a whole package of issues. Hence, I would reaffirm the Cambodian position that Cambodia is ready to play by with whatever mechanism that is to take place and to cooperate with efforts made by those countries as long as the mechanism resolves the matter as a package.
I may need to affirm this because the Thai side has declared that the issue of Preah Vihear is in fact the collusion between Thaksin and Hun Sen whereas a step has been taken to revoke the (2000) MOU that was signed in the Thaksin era. So all issues related have to be brought into the process. I would suggest it is good if Thailand also take the time to resolve all issues around with Myanmar, Laos and other countries related and also issues concerning Thaksin’s administration. This should bring to light if the current Government has been inherited as a state or not, and a clarification of diplomatic position by the Kingdom of Thailand as “has been considered a state of civilization.”
I wish to make comments on the recent declaration of Thailand. Days ago, my counterpart Abhisit made numerous declarations and I have had no chance to do so. First I wish to make my comment on the declaration by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand on November 5, 2009. I will take two points of concern as follows:
Firstly, therefore, the Royal Government of Thailand could not stand idly but to take Thai people sentiment into consideration. Whatever is being done by the Royal Government of Thailand aimed at informing the Cambodian Government of the Thai people’s discontent. I wanted to ask HE Abhisit and other Thai leaders if they know of a mixture of reaction in Thailand. Were there only reactions in the form of anger or also congratulation? Have you known your country well? Now the red-shirted protestors welcome the news and greeted the fact that Thaksin has become the economic advisor to the Royal Government of Cambodia. There certainly is a group that is discontent but there also is a group that is content with. As Thais, they are proud that one of their nationals has been appointed advisor of the Prime Minister and the Royal Government of Cambodia.
Could you tell how many groups of people in your country? I may tell you that there are red-shirted, yellow-shirted, blue-shirted and white-shirted and multi-political tendency groups. Because of so many factions of political tendencies, it is impossible for you to say anything like Hun Sen does. Hun Sen holds power based on a two-third majority basis, whereas you have plundered other (party’s) forces. I do not mean to interfere in your internal affairs but your comments have involved me and I have the duty to react to an extent that your affair has to be involved.
If the PPP (People’s Power Party) had not been divided, how could you stand a chance to be Prime Minister? There must not be confusion here. That is my first message in return. As far as the appointment of HE Thaksin is concerned, definitely, Thais people in Pheu Thai or UDD would grant their full support. But of course, a small section of population with the yellow-shirted PAD and/or a handful of historically-misled people would be in opposition.
Secondly, concerning what have been said, including what has been said this morning by Abhisit about consideration between individual and national interest, I would raise a question here, whether it is Hun Sen or Abhisit who committed mistake and should take the blame?
As far as the matter is concerned, in my declaration on October 23, while offering rights to settle in Cambodia to HE Thaksin, stress has been made that relations with the Royal Thai Government would continue. On October 24, 2009, as we appointed HE Thaksin economic advisor, we also expressed clearly that intergovernmental relations between the two countries would go on. (Political) parties’ relations should not be brought into picture here. In fact the Cambodian People’s Party and Pheu Thai, stemmed from former Thai Rak Thai, have had their relations established since Thai Rak Thai’s inception. Coming to this, it is you who have thrown national interests of the two countries in the dustbin.
How come you are so afraid of Thaksin? In fact Thaksin has been to many places. When we had the ASEAN Summit in Hua Hin, Thaksin was in Sri Lanka. The fact that Thaksin had been to many places, why else you did not seem to react? Conclusively, as far as this issue is concerned, it is you who have brought up matter of scaling down diplomatic relations. Cambodia only followed suit. So you have gone to a great lengths of confusion to have said or understood that Hun Sen could not distinguish individual from state affair.
On the contrary, I would emphasize, it is you who could not distinguish the matters. How else because of individual Thaksin you dare plunge national interests of the two countries in the dustbin. Are you afraid of Thaksin? Do you have no courage for an election? My advice is to show your boldness, go for the election. Are you afraid that you cannot maintain the Premiership? Are you afraid of PPP’s victory? I do not mean to stir your anger, but you have gone too far in the last few days, leaving no tiny stone unturned. (Listeners may) read the Bangkok Post on November 7. Get yourself informed of reactions from foreign diplomats on measures taken by the Bangkok Government.
I hate to exchange but my patience has its limits. I have been trying to keep myself quiet but you have made video conferencing from Tokyo to Bangkok, and even that you don’t leave it a chance to miss. So now I have to get my message in return to you. I would argue that there has to be a clear distinction between Thai people, army, Government officials and the Royal Government. This is a conflict between the Government and Government, or to be exact, between Abhisit and Hun Sen. After scaling down diplomatic relations, you now threatened to close border.
Always, I wish to inform you, Cambodia will follow suit Thai’s measures. When you called back your Ambassador, Cambodia followed by doing so too. When you order three embassy staff to return to Thailand, we also call back three of our staff to come home too. When Thailand return their Ambassador to the job, we would do the same. However, as far as border closure is concerned, what’s up? I would stress here that Cambodia does not initiate such a closure at all and we welcome what Abhisit had to say about refraining from causing any clashes that might harm people’s livelihood.
In light of this, if Thailand decides to go ahead in closing down the border, Cambodia will follow it up. Closing means the two sides cannot go to-and-fro. Cambodia would then take a number of measures to fence off imports from Thailand within the span of border closure period. That means there would not be Thai goods anymore in the Cambodian market. You may want to have figures of trade in 2008 between the two countries. Imports of Thai goods to Cambodia had been recorded as two billion US dollars while from Cambodia to Thailand was only 90 million US dollars. The figure is provided to me by the Ministry of Trade.
What is ironical is that as chair country of ASEAN, which will establish an economic community by 2015, Thailand would resort to closing down border which eventually cut off trade relations. I am not an extremist. I always oppose to suggestions raised by my compatriots, upon aggression by Thailand, to use no more Thai products. I have prevented that from happening and also instructed them to continue to do business as usual. However, if Thailand feels obliged to close down the border because this matter, that would leave us no further options. Closure would be applied for both humans and goods, and not one but not the other. It is not my wish to see this thing happens.
Thailand seems to have increasingly threatened us. There is one thing they should understand. Cambodia, however small it is, has had abundance of experiences from traveling through a long war, war-cum peace period, and integrated economies. I just wish to bring to light for Thai leaders that if this is what they are going to do, they would be in opposition to their people’s interest than to the Cambodian. However, it is clear to say the conflict should be between Bangkok and Phnom Penh.
Now let me give a background story concerning Thaksin. I have come to meet Abhisit three times and I have told Abhisit each time I met him that Thaksin and me are friends. Abhisit has said in return that he understands the feeling of being friend. At least that is what he said to me. However, when HE Prawit Wopngsuwan, Minister of Defense, led a delegation to Cambodia, you press people may have remembered, there was this news that Thaksin was in Koh Kong.
On April 5, 2009, after the armed clashes on April 3, 2009, in the Preah Vihear area, HE Suthep Thaugsuban, Deputy Prime Minister, and HE Prawit Wongsuwan, came to see me at Takhmao residence. Suthep said to me then “there has been news about Thaksin coming in and out of Cambodia …” I told Suthep and Prawit “If I were Your Excellencies I would have sacked all intelligence people because their system has created two major mistakes – 1) to prompt a wrong decision by leaders and 2) to cause hostility between the two countries.”
He then asked me further “If ever Thaksin came to Cambodia, would you arrest him and send him to Thailand?” I told him I would not betray friends. What has been the nature of extradition treaty between Cambodia and Thailand is that it is not applicable when it comes to politically related matter. As far as Thaksin issue is concerned, it is a political matter. Why? If he were not to be removed by a coup, the issue would not be here today.
I do not know if it is true or not, but Abhisit has been reportedly said that Hun Sen should reconsider his appointment of Thaksin, stop interfering into Thai internal affairs and underestimating Thai judicial system. Thai judicial system is for Thais. Does the system investigate why else the matter of bringing Thaksin to trial has been brought up? The system does not constitute a systematic respect from Cambodia, especially politically related matter.
Let’s take a look at the time when we signed an agreement in May 1998, it was Thailand who was so nervous that we would propose an extradition of Khieu Samphan, Tamok, Nuon Chea and other Khmer Rouge leaders. But now they have come to abuse us for not extraditing Thaksin, a victim of political and military coup. I would not do that. The appointment is valid. On November 12, Thaksin will give a lecture to 300 senior Cambodian economists. I have told both HE Suthep and Prawit that when Thaksin comes to Cambodia I will let you know and I do openly. Your intelligence should keep on the mission of tracking him down when he leaves Cambodia. If every time they say Thaksin is in Cambodia, why else should I keep it a secret, let him come in open and give him job?
A question has brought up in Hua Hin to me to think about a phrase of “not being a pawn of somebody.” Does this mean that Hun Sen is Thaksin’s pawn or vice versa? I feel an urgency to reply to this statement along time ago. I wish to restate to HE Abhisit, please do not take it as I underestimate you, Cambodia is truly a small country but politically I have started since when Abhisit was a child. As a small but independent, democratic and self-determined country, Cambodia can never become Thaksin’s pawn. Thaksin could never have Hun Sen as his pawn, even if he may want to. That is the first thing to clarify.
Secondly, Thaksin also could not become Hun Sen’s pawn. He would not let himself be so, even Hun Sen wishes too. Contact and meeting between Thaksin and me is for resolving challenges of economic difficulties. Having come this far I would seek understanding from the Pheu Thai Party and red-shirted people to allow Thaksin help me and the Royal Government of Cambodia on economic issue. You all should take it as your pride as your beloved and respected leader has become advisor to the Prime Minister and the Royal Government of Cambodia.
There should not be any confusion here. Let me stress it for you – people, army, paramilitary and people of Thailand – HE Thaksin, HE Chaovalit Yongchaiyuth and HE Somchai Wongsawat were all Thai former Prime Ministers for whom you voted for in the past. What I have done with Thaksin is nothing else but maintaining friendly relations, and helping each other out. The Abhisit Government has now come to oppose this positive development. Would you help seek me justice? The conflict is not between our two countries and people but between Abhisit and Hun Sen, the Governments of Bangkok and Phnom Penh …
a. Concerning Preah Vihear
It is true that Preah Vihear issue has come out from the motive of Democratic Party of Abhisit with the support rendered by the yellow-shirted people, who efforts jointly had brought about a failure to the People’s Power Party represented by HE Samak Sundharavej. The issue went all the way to (Thai) courts and HE Noppadon Pattama, then Foreign Minister of Thailand, has become a political hostage in this Preah Vihear issue.
In Thailand, Preah Vihear issue has been used for the sake of bringing down Government and it has been effective so far. So they wish to keep on using this as long as they can. Records of three meetings between the Foreign Ministers of the two countries have yet to pass the parliament. During the visit of the Thai Speaker, he told us, when we sought his cooperation in passing the said minutes of meetings, there has been nothing left, all had been done. I told HE Chai Chidchob he should try and resolve some of Thai problems – yellow-shirted, red-shirted, blue-shirted and white-shirted, the South, issues with Laos, with Myanmar and with Malaysia. I said he should move fast the minor problem with Cambodia. They have left them all unresolved. They look into the possibility of turning all internal matters into issues of Preah Vihear and Thaksin.
A commentator, whose article had been run in the Bangkok Post recently, said if they do not cry fool of him, Thaksin would not be so famous. Now Thaksin is.
b. Package Solution
There have been incompatible positions taken by Thai officials and the General Secretary of ASEAN. The ASEAN Secretary General wished to raise matter for more external interventions and the Thai officials have opposed the move. As for Cambodia, we would go to all forums – bilateral or multilateral. I have said many times that I would play along through to the end. However, as there are inter-related events, a solution to one would not be a single stroke. Issues of Preah Vihear, border and Thaksin should all be a whole package together for any solution to come to.
What is interference into internal affairs? Why do they talk about Myanmar? They always talk about Myanmar and its Government. Why do they forget about Thaksin? We do not cross the line. We will follow wherever they go. There was once Abhisit said that my reaction to the issue of demonstration at Preah Vihear by the yellow-shirted protestors was for increasing my popularity. Has he learned that the Cambodian People’s Party has two-third of the total seats or 90 out of 123 in the National Assembly? How many seats he has? My Government will be here for five years and my term will end in 2013. When will yours?
At one other point there has been an article in The Nation saying that “there may be a thought that Hun Sen is learning to be a hero, but it doest not seem so …” I wish to respond to The Nation’s article that Hun Sen could not be a hero forever in your eyes because Hun Sen would never bow to your aggression. I would not raise a national hatred against Thai people on the past and what have been doing now around our embassy in Bangkok. You cried out loud about who established Cambodia? Who helped Ang Duong dynasty? These are serious insults.
Our reactions have not been illegitimate. Thaksin is not a fugitive criminal or terrorist. He is a victim. Our giving him a position as advisor is nothing bizarre. The current President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea used to be my economic advisor too in 2000, prior to his presidency. I have many advisors who are Japanese, Korean and now Thai. As for the Royal Government of Cambodia, there are advisors who are French, American, Australian and Belgian too.
c. Border Closure
(Thailand’s) threat of border closure gives us a signal that they may go that far. So I just told them that they may do so but remember that door closing is for blocking both sides. People on either side of the door would pay a price for this but Cambodians would be paying less. Moreover we would not desire that to happen. If I were Abhisit, I do not understand him, I would have been proud of a Thai becoming advisor to another country’s leader. Or is it a resentful sort of thing?
They have turned Thaksin from a successful tycoon, majority-supported politician into a victim who suffers family division and has limited space of living and traveling. Is not that a jealousy? If they could not consent to their natives, how far could they consent to us? Dear Thais, would you take a minute and ponder on this. Former Prime Minister Thaksin, Chaovalit Yongchaiyuth, etc. whom you have given your votes to, are making friends with Hun Sen. Because of this Hun Sen has become a convict too.
I have yet to mention issues between Thailand and Cambodia in the recent past. Thailand used to be a safe haven for the Khmer Rouge in their attack against Cambodia. We have set aside the 1979 to 1991 as a different matter but what was then between 1993 though to 1998. You may ask Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea, etc. that before entering Cambodia, where did they live? Let’s ask the Ee Chhien’s group (formerly a Khmer Rouge commander and currently Governor of Pailin) – such as commanders Yim Pim, Pen Voy, and Nuon Phirom. They all know Thai territory along the border very well.
Both Thaksin and Chaovalit did not ask for a support for any establishment of an armed resistance or an exile Government in Cambodia against Thailand at all. Why Thailand is so sensitive in this matter? I have not yet come to the point at which Thailand had come to on Cambodia in the past. I do not seek revenge. I also do not agree for any sort of establishment mentioned above./.