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Hun Sen Issues Missives to UN After Thai Border Threats

Letters over the weekend from Prime Minister Hun Sen to key UN officials may be an attempt to prevent Thailand from resorting to violence over the border issue near Preah Vihear temple, a local analyst said Monday.

On Sunday, Hun Sen wrote the heads of the UN Security Council and its General Assembly, claiming Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had threatened to use military force to resolve the longstanding border issue.

Hun Sen was responding to Thai media reports that quoted Abhisit telling a pro-government rally that Thailand could walk away from a border agreement signed in 2000 and “use both democratic and military means” to settle a standoff.

“I think this is a sign of alarm to the United Nations Security Council to prevent the border dispute not going toward war and bloodshed,” Chheang Vannarith, the president of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, told VOA Khmer Monday.

“Cambodia is a small country” that needs multilateral support, “particularly the UN,” he said. “So these letters are diplomatic politics from Cambodia to put pressure on Thailand to not use illegal military force.”

Cambodia and Thailand remain at odds over a 4.6-kilometer stretch of land west of Preah Vihear temple, which was made a Unesco World Heritage site under Cambodian protection in 2008. Thousands of troops on each side are amassed on the border, where skirmishes since 2008 have left at least eight soldiers dead.

Both sides severed diplomatic ties last year after Cambodia hired ouster Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic adviser to Hun Sen.

“I think the letters to the UN are a step toward peaceful resolution with UN intervention,” Cheang Sokha, director of the Working Group for Peace, said Monday. “The letters are a call for the help from the international community on the Cambodia-Thailand border problem and provide information to UN about the possibility of Thailand using military force to invade Cambodia.”

Hun Sen discussed the letters in a public speech on Monday, saying Cambodia would “fight against a warlike Thai invasion inside Cambodia” and “call an urgent [UN] meeting on the Cambodia-Thai border situation” if Thailand were to resort to military violence over the border.

The Bangkok Post reported Monday that Thai Foreign Ministry officials are preparing a response to the UN that claims, “Thailand had never changed its position, of wanting to cooperate with its neighbor and share common interests.”