>PM sees dispute easing with operations level military talks

>Picture of surrendered Thai soldiers (in black) guarded by Cambodian soldiers (R) during the fighting at Sekha Kirisvarak pagoda on 15th October 2008.

BANGKOK, Oct 17 (TNA) – Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat (pictured) on Thursday expressed optimism that the border dispute between Cambodia and Thailand would ease after the commanders of military units from both countries talked directly with each other.

He believed the border conflict will not escalate because the military units at the scene from both countries have had good relations for years.

They clashed in the disputed area because they have the duty to protect their national territories, said Mr. Somchai, who is also Thailand’s defense minister.

“It is a good sign that military officials of both sides have an opportunity to talk with each other. It is not worrying now,” he said.

On the scene officials from both countries should talk more often, Mr. Somchai advised.

“Official-level talks will finally lead to a further meeting of top military commanders,” he said.

However, the prime minister did not say that the talks would solve the problem. Asked when he would meet with his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen, the Thai premier said he was waiting for an appropriate time.

Mr. Somchai said he is confident that the military officials at all levels of both countries are able to talk together for “a proper understanding”, but that on-location operations commanders and government officials must be encouraged to talk with each other first.

He said he must visit ASEAN member countries to introduce himself to the region as having assumed the premiership, but the schedule has been postponed until various problems the country is facing both domestically and abroad are addressed.

Regarding reports that a group of Thai soldiers were captured during the border clashes, the premier said he had asked military commanders at the scene, who said they had no knowledge of such an occurance having actually taken place.

The premier affirmed that Thailand and Cambodia are still good neighbors.(TNA)

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