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Asean Rocket Comments Draw Hun Sen’s Ire

Prime Minister Hun Sen lashed out a senior Thai Asean official on Monday for remarks critical of Cambodia’s military rocket exercise last week.

Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan was quoted by the Bernama news agency Friday saying the test-firing of some 200 rockets in Kampong Chhnang province could have signaled instability in the region.

Speaking to a group of disabled soldiers in Kampot province Monday, Hun Sen said Surin had “interfered in Cambodian internal affairs” with his remarks.

“Cambodia just tested the BM-21 rocket launcher,” Hun Sen said. “It is not your business as Asean secretary-general. Why have the Thai prime minister and deputy prime minister not reaceted to this at all? But the Asean secretary-generally showed his concern that the region is not secure because of Cambodia’s launch of rockets?”

Surin was not properly fulfilling his “very neutral” role as secretary-general, Hun Sen said.

Cambodia and Thailand remain at odds over a small strip of frontier west of Preah Vihear temple, where nearby the Thai military ran its own exercises last year. Thai officials were forced to apologize for the exercise after shells fell on Cambodian territory and fighter planes crossed Cambodian air space.

Cambodian officials have denied Thursday’s exercise was a show of force in the standoff.

On Sunday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent an official letter to Surin, chastising him for remarks that could “bring about a bad image” to another Asean country.

“Normally, and in principle, an Asean secretary-general should exercise some self-restraint,” Foreign Minister Hor Namhong wrote.