Friday, November 27, 2009

"The Abhisit Vejjajiva government should not be afraid of losing face, former foreign Minister Surakiart said

Former foreign minister Surakiart Sathirathai suggested yesterday that the government make moves to calm the wave of patriotism and show political maturity by offering an olive branch to Cambodia.

"The government should not be afraid of losing face, but instead show its maturity by calling for talks," Surakiart told a seminar at Chulalongkorn University.

"It should send people that Cambodia would want to talk to, instead of sending public figures that are hated in Phnom Penh."

For starters, he said, the government should drop its plans to scrap the bilateral maritime deal. If the government does not want to discuss the overlapping claim in the Gulf of Thailand, all it has to do is simply not talk, instead of terminating the deal, he said.

Abhisit Vejjajiva's Cabinet decided two weeks ago to revoke the memorandum of understanding signed between the two countries in 2001 in a retaliatory gesture after Cambodian PM Hun Sen appointed fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic adviser.

The MoU, signed during Thaksin's administration by Surakairt and Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, was meant to set up a joint technical committee to draw up terms of a joint development area and the delimitation of territorial waters in the Gulf of Thailand.

Surakiart suggested that the government withdraw its proposal of termination soon so the document can continue being effective.

"Thai people should not allow internal colour-coded politics jeopardise relations with neighbouring countries. Don't allow one person, who was in Cambodia just for four days, to spark hatred between Thais and Cambodians," he said.

The government has also downgraded bilateral relations with and put several cooperation projects under review.

Cambodia later arrested a Thai national Siwarak Chutipong over charges of spying on Thaksin's flight information and passing it on to a Thai diplomat who was later expelled from Phnom Penh.

Siwarak's mother, Simarak Na Nakhon Phanom, is being given the chance of visiting her son today at prison, where he has been detained since November 12.

Siwarak's case was hotly debated in Parliament yesterday as opposition Pheu Thai Party MP Anudit Nakornthap questioned Abhisit about how the government managed to get Thaksin's flight information and decided to stop his jet from flying over Thai skies.

On behalf of the PM Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said he had been given the information by the Thai aviation department and the aeronautical radio agency, not Siwarak.

Initially, the government had no idea who was on the plane, and authorities had allowed it to fly back and forth on November 9 and 13. However, upon seeing photographs of Thaksin disembarking the plane in Phnom Penh on November 10, the government decided to revoke permission for the plane to fly over Thai territory, Suthep explained

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