>Border talks delayed over legal uncertainty

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Cambodia Commander Colonel Chea Sopha (L) talks with Thai Commander Than during a joint meeting on the top of Phnom Trop mountain near the disputed 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh, October 19, 2008.

REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Concern over the possibility they might be violating the Constitution has forced the Second Army Area from carrying out a scheduled meeting with its Cambodian counterparts aimed out preventing more armed clashes along overlapping border areas.

“The regional border meeting scheduled on October 21 was postponed as the two countries are not yet ready,” Colonel Taweesak Boonrakchart, deputy director of the Second Army Area’s civil affairs, said.

Taweeksak said the army would have to get approval from Parliament before it could sign any pact with the Cambodian contacts.

Other government officials said the Army was afraid that anything agreed with the Cambodians could come back to haunt officers at a later date, as happened to former Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama.

The Constitution Court ruled in June that Noppadon had violated the Constitution by signing a joint communique with Cambodia, supporting its bid to list Preah Vihear temple as a Unesco World Heritage site, without parliamentary endorsement.

It was not clear what specific items, if any, were to be discussed at the scheduled meeting between Thai and Cambodian top brass at the Regional Border Committee (RBC) forum.

But security specialist, Assoc Professor Panithan Wattanayagorn, said a number of issues could be jointly addressed by both sides without parliamentary involvement.

“If it’s a normal military operation that protects Thailand’s sovereignty, then it shouldn’t need to go through the Parliament,” Panitan said.

Among the topics that Thai and Cambodian troops could or should discuss include revealing the location of troops, order of operation to let each side know what the other is doing, joint demining and joint patrolling. These activities are all confidence building measures aimed at boosting trust and reducing misunderstanding, he said.

Regarding concern that a government agency might violate the Constitution by sidestepping the Parliament, Panitan said the military should create a committee to coordinate its work with Parliament.

“Unlike some foreign governments, Thailand doesn’t have much of a working culture between Parliament and the government ministries,” Panitan said.

Thai and Cambodian top brass have agreed to hold their ground following last week’s flareups that ended in injury to seven Thai troops and the death of two Cambodian soldiers.

Soldiers on both sides of the border were jolted Saturday morning when a dog stepped on a landmine, setting off a loud explosion.

Thaweesak said the situation remained calm but both sides were holding their ground until further notice.

Cambodia’s deputy defence minister General Neang Phat told AFP he expected a meeting on Thursday morning.

“The relations between our troops are better. We try to be calm here flexible, but strong,” said Cambodian Colonel Som Bopharoath. Soldiers from both sides could be seen chatting with each other.

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