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Thais 'must change border attitudes'

Country's relations with its neighbors worries bishop

Thais 'must change border attitudes'
Cambodian villagers displaced by border fighting (Photos courtesy of Caritas Cambodia)
Panithan Kitsakul, Bangkok

February 23, 2011

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The Thai government must change its attitudes towards its neighbors and adopt a policy of cooperation and building friendships, according to the head of the country’s main Catholic relief agency. “We always see confrontation with either Burma or Cambodia on border issues,” said Bishop Pibul Visitnonthachai of Nakhon Sawan, executive director of the Catholic Office for Emergency Relief and Refugees (COERR). He said government policy towards its neighbors was to blame for recent border dispute with Cambodia. He called the recent clash around the Preah Vihear temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site, a “quarrel between parents that causes their children to argue with each other as well.” He said it would be probably better “to bring this issue before the International Court of Justice which could offer the best solution and end the problem.” Bishop Pibul was speaking yesterday, the same day an ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting in Jakarta agreed to send Indonesian observers to monitor both sides of the disputed border. Usually, ordinary Thais and Cambodians along the border understand and are inter-dependent on each other, according to Suthipong Yamsanga, COERR coordinator in Surin province, where eight people died. “But the recent clashes and the build-up of troops by both countries has created suspicions among people,” he said. Furthermore, the government has advised villagers to dig shelters near their homes, Suthipong said. “This helps create hatred between people. This issue is giving political points to a few people while many people are suffering,” he added. According to Father Veerachai Sripramong, the local superior in Cambodia of the Thai Missionary Society, “Cambodians generally still have a high regard toward Thais.” TH13405.1642
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