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Police replace troops on Preah Vihear border…Soldiers in police camouflage

Bangkokpost, 18 July 2012

Two hundred border patrol police have begun replacing soldiers along the Thai-Cambodian border in the disputed area around Preah Vihear temple in Kantharalak district of Si Sa Ket province, police spokesman Piya Uthayo said on Wednesday.

ចាន់អុយ ឆា   ដកខោអាវទាហានរួចបំពាក់ខោអាវតម្រួត
Aggressor soldiers in camouflage of Police outfits

Pol Maj-Gen Piya said the withdrawal of troops was in response to the order by the International Court of Justice.

He said starting July 18, 100 members of Border Patrol Police Task Force Company 33 from Sakon Nakhon are replacing soldiers of the 23rd Rangers Company in front of Preah Vihear temple, and 100 others from BPP Company 24 from Udon Thani are replacing rangers near Wat Kaew Sikha Khiri Sawara.

The two companies are under the command of Pol Maj Chote Thaiying, commander of the Region 2 Border Patrol Police.

Pol Lt-Gen Suthin Khiewrat, the Border Patrol Police commander, was in the area today to oversee the deployment.

Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat and national army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha visited the Preah Vihear border area on Wednesday.

ACM Sukumpol told the border patrol police that they have a duty to protect Thailand’s sovereignty and not to do anything that will tarnish the country’s image.

“You [the border patrol police] must show perseverance in the face of pressure,” ACM Sukumpol said. “If there is provocation from the other side, I ask you to think first of our country’s best interests.”

When reporters asked him about unconfirmed reports the Cambodian army had ordered its troops to just wear civilian clothing on the border, he said Thai forces would have to wait and see.

“If they are man enough, they should abide by the agreement,” ACM Sukumpol said.

When reporters told the defence minister that they did not see any troop withdrawal, Gen Prayuth asked them,”Why do we have to let you see the withdrawal?”

Deputy government spokesman Anusorn Iamsa-ard said the deployment of border patrol police to replace the troops was in response to the International Court of Justice’s order that Thailand and Cambodia pull back their soldiers from the demilitarised zone, not in response to a demand from Cambodia.

Mr Anusorn said this would make way for observers from Indonesia to enter the disputed area soon and was also part of preparations for the establishment of the Asean Economic Community (AEC).

All agencies involved, including the armed forces, had confirmed that withdrawal of troops would not put Thailand at a disadvantage, he said.

The spokesman also said Veera Somkwamkid, a coordinator of the Thai Patriots Network, and his secretary Ratree Pipattanapaiboon who are serving time in a Cambodian prison after being found guilty of illegal entry and spying, may be released soon.

He said a “positive” signal had been received that Veera and Ratree might be released as a result of improved relations between Thailand and Cambodia, particularly after the visits to Phnom Penh by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul.

“There have been talks between the two countries over the release of the two and much progress has been made,” Mr Anusorn said.

Relations between the two countries during the first half of 2011 soured after Cambodian police arrested seven Thai political activists who illegally entered Cambodia after crossing the border near Aranyaprathet district of Sa Kaeo province on Dec 29, 2010. They were put on trial early last year.

The seven are former Democrat MP Panich Vikitseth; Kitpolthorn Chusanasewi, Mr Panich’s driver; Narumol Jitrawaratana, coordinator of the Thai Patriot Network; Veera and Ratreee; Samdin Lertbutr, a People’s Alliance for Democracy activist; and Tainae Mungmajon, another PAD activist.

Five of them were later released. Veera and Ratree were detained, tried and sentenced to eight and six year imprisonment respectively on charges of illegal entry and spying. Veera had been arrested for illegal entry previously and released with a warning not to do it again.

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