Thai PM Visits Cambodia Seeking to Mend Frayed Relations

Posted September 15th, 2011 at 9:50 am (UTC-5)
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New Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her Cambodian counterpart, Hun Sen, have agreed to redeploy troops away from a flashpoint border area where armies from both countries engaged in deadly clashes earlier this year.

The agreement came Thursday during a one-day visit by Ms. Yingluck to the Cambodian capital. Details of the deal were not immediately disclosed.

Both governments have voiced interest in restoring peace after border clashes earlier this year killed 28 people and displaced thousands of villagers near a disputed temple. Relations have improved dramatically since Ms. Yingluck came to office replacing the former government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Ms. Yingluck, was greeted Thursday in Phnom Penh by Hun Sen. After a welcoming ceremony, the two proceeded to Khemarin Palace to meet King Norodom Sihamoni.

The border clashes erupted in February, near a the 900-year-old Hindu-Khmer temple, called Preah Vihear (PREH-vee-HEAR) in Cambodia and Phra Viharn (PRAH WEE-hahn) in Thailand.

Thailand has acknowledged that the temple itself belongs to Cambodia, but Bangkok has long claimed much of the land surrounding the facility, including a key access road.

Tensions have mounted since 2008, when UNESCO listed the temple as a World heritage Site.

Ahead of the Yingluck visit, Thai officials said the prime minister would press for the release of Thai nationalist Veera Somkwamkid and his secretary, who were convicted on espionage charges after crossing illegally into Cambodia earlier this year. Veera was a legislator with Mr. Abhisit's party at the time of his arrest.

Ms. Yingluck's elder brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, is also expected to seek their release when he visits Phnom Penh on Friday to deliver a lecture. Mr. Thaksin, who was ousted as prime minister of Thailand in a 2006 coup, served as an economic adviser to Mr. Hun Sen and enjoys a warm relationship with him.

Ms. Yingluck said she will not see or speak to her brother, who was convicted on corruption charges in Thailand while his political opponents were in office. Oppositions politicians say the government is obliged to try to bring him to justice.