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Groups Urge Meeting of Thai, Cambodian Premiers

Local rights groups and the opposition on Wednesday encouraged Prime Minister Hun Sen to meet with his Thai counterpart over ongoing border and diplomatic disputes when the two attend a regional meeting in Thailand.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, Hun Sen and other leaders will meet at the first Mekong River Commission summit early next month.

Diplomatic relations between Bangkok and Phnom Penh have progressively soured, following the appointment last year of ousted Thai Premier Thaksin Shinawatra as economic adviser to Hun Sen.

No bilateral meetings are scheduled between the two neighbors, who are also engaged in a military standoff over disputed border territory.

The Mekong River summit, to be held in April, “is a very good opportunity for [Hun Sen and Abhisit] to hold bilateral talks for the solution of the border dispute, the diplomatic row and the verbal war,” said Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc.

Talks could also solve “small problems,” such as the incidents of shooting deaths allegedly perpetrated by Thai border forces against illegal Cambodian immigrants, he said.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said bilateral talks must be held to solve border tensions and to avoid paying more money from national coffers for the military build-up.

“Cambodia needs to use its potential in foreign policy to defend Cambodian territory and boost its economic activity,” he said.

Meanwhile, A senior military leader on Wednesday said Cambodia has enough troops and arms on the border to defend the frontier against a Thai incursion, as a military standoff over disputed land near Preah Vihear temple continues.

Troops on both sides have amassed on the border since July 2008.