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Thais Threaten to Close Cambodian Borders

Thailand’s deputy prime minister on Friday warned the country could close its borders to Cambodia, after each withdrew their ambassadors in a worsening row over ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Both sides have troops amassed on the border following skirmishes over Preah Vihear temple last year, but military officials said Friday the situation remained calm.

The two countries share seven international checkpoints, as well as 12 others, along 800 kilometers of border.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban was quoted Friday saying worsening relations could lead to closed checkpoints, following Cambodia’s announcement it had made Thaksin an economic adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Thaksin is in self-imposed exile and faces a two-year jail sentence for corruption charges if he returns to Thailand. Hun Sen has said he would welcome the former premier, who was ousted in a bloodless coup in 2006, in spite of an extradition treaty with Thailand.

“If Cambodia still adopts a hard line and uncompromising attitude, then we must continue to downgrade relations and maybe seal off all border checkpoints,” Suthep was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said he wasn’t surprised by the warning, but he added that Thailand would suffer more from a border closure than Cambodia.

The deepening diplomatic crisis had no bearing on a military standoff along the northern border, officials said Friday.

Defense Minister Tea Banh told VOA Khmer the border situation was “quiet” and “normal,” despite the withdrawal of ambassadors from Bangkok and Phnom Penh.

Chea Mon, commander of Division 4, said Cambodian soldiers were maintaining their positions on the border, which was quiet.