5 Nov 2009

Army keeps military attache in Phnom Penh

Relations with Cambodia have sunk to new lows but Thailand is keeping its military attache in Phnom Penh.

The army hopes the military attache will be a key channel for dealing with Cambodia and helping take care of Thais living or visiting there.

"The military attache will be ordered to return home only when ties are in crisis," an army source said yesterday.

Although diplomatic relations between the two countries are strained and there is a continuing border dispute, ties between the two armies remain close.

But the Supreme Command has dusted off the Pochentong plan in case the situation worsens.

The emergency plan was implemented in 2003 when the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh was torched. Three C-130 aircraft were deployed to evacuate Thais from the Cambodian capital.

Cambodian soldiers are presently engaged in a military exercise about 10km from the Preah Vihear temple.

A Thai army source estimated 2,000 troops were taking part in war games simulating a border conflict.

The terrain where the military exercise is being held was similar to the area around the 11th century temple, the source said.

Cambodia has 3,000 soldiers at the temple and in the nearby disputed area.

The war games started mid-last month and would end on Nov 15, the source said.

Meanwhile, at Rong Kluea market near Ban Khlong Luk border checkpoint in Sa Kaeo's Aranyaprathet district, Cambodian traders closed their stores early yesterday after reports Thailand had recalled its ambassador to Phnom Penh.

Thai gamblers visiting casinos in Poi Pet also rushed back to Thai soil for fear of anti-Thai riots like those that erupted in 2003.

Sa Kaeo governor Sanit Naksuksri ordered the chiefs of all border districts to monitor the situation.

Col Wasu Chiamsuk of the Burapha task force told all border rangers in Sa Kaeo to be on standby.

In Chanthaburi province, there were rumours a border checkpoint might be closed, prompting Thai and Cambodian traders along the border to delay their transactions.

Isiwut Tangkiat, chairman of the Association of Chanthaburi's Thai-Cambodian Trade and Tourism, said Cambodian business operators had delayed and cancelled product orders.

The value of products that could not be delivered to customers in Cambodia yesterday amounted to about 100 million baht, Mr Isiwut said.

In Trat's Khlong Yai district, Thais and Cambodians visiting the Ban Had Lek border market continued with their normal routines as neither side had ordered the closure of Ban Had Lek border checkpoint.

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