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Officials dismiss Thai protest

Written By vibykhmer on Tuesday, September 15, 2009 | 6:47 PM

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Chief Thai air marshal Itthaporn Subhawong (left) sits with RCAF Commander in Chief Pol Saroeun.

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 15 September 2009 15:03 Vong Sokheng and Cheang Sokha

Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Commander in Chief Pol Saroeun met with Itthaporn Subhawong, Thailand’s chief air marshal, on Monday in Phnom Penh, as officials from both countries dismissed the significance of Thai protests at the border reportedly planned for this Saturday.

Bangkok’s The Nation newspaper reported on Monday that members of the Peoples’ Alliance for Democracy (PAD), a Thai political party, plan to hold a rally on Saturday near the Preah Vihear temple complex to protest the supposed loss of Thai sovereignty in the disputed area.

The Thai military, however, discouraged the protesters from following through on their plans. “We should be careful about the protest, as such an activity, despite its good intentions, could affect operating strategy on the ground,” The Nation quoted Thai Army spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaeowkamnerd as saying.

Cambodian Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat told the Post that should the protest take place, the PAD protesters will not be permitted to enter Cambodian territory.

“We are not concerned about the protests planned for September 19,” he said. “We will not allow [the protesters] to enter Cambodian soil, and we will exercise our right to self-defence if the situation warrants it.”

In a meeting at RCAF headquarters in Phnom Penh on Monday, Pol Saroeun and Itthaporn reaffirmed the warming of Thai-Cambodian relations that has taken place over the past few weeks.

“This visit is meant to promote understanding and good relations between our two countries and to facilitate training of Cambodian air force members by Thailand,” Itthaporn said. “[Thai air force representatives] have been very warmly received here.”

Pol Saroeun cited Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya’s visit to the border area this past weekend, where he was hosted by Cambodian officials, as an example of cooperation that he hoped to see continue.

“We should forget the conflicts that have happened between us and look forward to improving our relationship,” he said.

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