On 14 October 2008, Mr. Virasakdi Futrakul, Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs, briefed the Ambassadors and Charge d’Affaires of ASEAN member countries about the latest developments regarding the Thai-Cambodian border issue. Gist as follows:
- On 3 October 2008, the Second Army Region of the Royal Thai Army reported that Thai paramilitary rangers from Suranaree Task Force, while on patrol along the Thai-Cambodian border near Phu Ma Khua, encountered Cambodian soldiers within Thai territory. The unarmed rangers informed the Cambodian soldiers that they had intruded into Thai territory and asked them to leave. The Cambodian soldiers started firing into the air. Realizing the sensitivity of the situation, the Thai paramilitary rangers decided to pull back. At this point, the Cambodian soldiers opened fire at the unarmed Thai rangers, causing Thai military units in the area to respond in self-defense. After a brief exchange of gunfire, there were injuries on both sides
- On 6 October 2008, while on routine patrol deep inside Thai territory to the north of Phu Ma Khua in an area near the Temple of Phra Viharn, two Thai paramilitary rangers stepped on landmines and lost their legs. The route taken by the Thai soldiers was known to have been cleared of landmines. The Thai Mine Action Center (TMAC) therefore sent a team of officials to investigate and clear the area. The team found several newly manufactured anti-personnel mines planted in an area nearby. Upon further inspection, they found recently planted PMN2-type landmines manufactured in Russia – a type of mine that has never been used or possessed by the Royal Thai Armed Forces. As Thai rangers had never found this type of landmine while patrolling this route prior to 3 October 2008, the Royal Thai Government believes that the landmines were planted after the incident.
- Thailand views this development with great alarm, as it indicates a serious violation of the Convention on the Prohibition on the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction of 1997 (the Ottawa Mine Ban Convention). It is Thailand’s sincere hope that the Royal Cambodian Government has not been stepping up its rhetoric over the boundary dispute in an effort to overwhelm any attention being given to this serious breach of international law.
- Boundary matters, Thailand has always believed, should be settled in accordance with international law. In the Case concerning the Temple of Preah Vihear, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) reached the judgment that the Temple is situated in territory under the sovereignty of Cambodia. It also noted, however, that it did not have jurisdiction to rule on the question of the boundary between the two countries. No party, therefore, can claim a boundary on the basis of the judgment. It is rather the French-Siamese Convention of 1904 that is the legal basis of the boundary in this area, which is yet to be jointly demarcated by the two countries. In any case, a dispute over the boundary should be settled by the two countries by reference to international law, rather than through dangerous rhetoric.
- The two countries have bilateral mechanisms for this task, particularly the Thai-Cambodian Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary (JBC) set up in 2000. Our Foreign Ministers have met twice, first in Siem Reap, Cambodia on 28 July 2008 and second in Cha-am, Petchaburi on 18 – 19 August 2008. As a result of the meetings, both sides agreed to recommend to their respective Governments to enter into a provisional arrangement to maintain a peaceful border conditions pending demarcation of the boundary by the JBC. As a confidence building measure, both sides have undertaken the first-phase redeployment of their respective troops from the area and prepared the groundwork for additional redeployment. Additionally, both sides agreed to recommend to their respective Governments that the JBC be convened, after which another round of Ministerial talks will take place.
- Thailand sincerely hopes that Cambodia will honor the understanding achieved at the ministerial meetings and exercise the necessary patience and restraint while each country’s internal processes take their course.
- Thailand has taken great pains to impress upon Cambodia that any decisions or actions by Thailand with a view to concluding a border or boundary treaty must comply with the Thai Constitution and domestic legal requirements, which require prior approval of the Parliament. This indeed includes any arrangement to redeploy troops in the Phra Viharn border areas.
- Thailand is therefore perplexed as to why the Cambodian Prime Minister issued, on 13 October 2008, an ultimatum demanding that Thai troops be withdrawn before 15:00 hrs. of 14 October 2008. Such an ultimatum stands in stark contradiction to the Cambodian Government’s earlier position that the issue should be settled bilaterally through peaceful means. Furthermore, it appears to reflect a blatant disregard for Thailand’s constitutional democratic processes, which may be different from Cambodia’s but equally deserving of respect.
- Thailand sincerely hopes that Cambodia will reconsider its ultimatum and allow the peaceful bilateral process already begun to resume. If Cambodia resorts to the use of force, Thailand will have no choice but to exercise its right to self-defence as provided for under the Charter of United Nations, in order to protect our demining personnel and Thailand’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.