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Yellow Shirts “PAD” Threaten to Besiege Government House over Preah Vihear Temple

The ongoing battle with Cambodia over the ancient Hindu temple Preah Vihear has renewed the political fervour of the nationalist People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), who threatened yesterday to hold street protests if the government failed to reject the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The ongoing battle with Cambodia over the ancient Hindu temple Preah Vihear has renewed the political fervour of the nationalist People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), who threatened yesterday to hold street protests if the government failed to reject the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

 

BANGKOK – PAD leader Chamlong Srimuang said yesterday that the government needs to meet his group’s seven demands or it will besiege Government House again.

“If there are any issues for which people deem a huge rally is necessary, we will rally at the same old place – Government House,” Chamlong told the press. Co-leader Sondhi Limthongkul backed him up by saying PAD wanted to protect Thai territory since the previous governments, including the Democrat and the Pheu Thai-led ones, had failed to perform their duty.

PAD leader Chamlong Srimuang

PAD leader Chamlong Srimuang

“If nobody is interested in what we are demanding, then let us just hand Thailand over to anyone who wants to invade our territory,” Sondhi said at the press conference.

The PAD has been igniting nationalistic sentiment since 2008, when Cambodia proposed to get Preah Vihear listed as a World Heritage Site. It ousted Noppadon Pattama from his post as foreign minister under Samak Sundaravej’s government because he supported the Cambodian proposal, and then seized Government House and Suvaranabhumi Airport to force Somchai Wongsawat’s Cabinet to step down in late 2008.

Thailand’s political battles later spilled over to Phnom Penh when the PAD managed to force Abhisit Vejjajiva’s government to block Cambodia’s moves to make the ancient temple a World Heritage Site.

Then Cambodia took the case to ICJ asking for an interpretation of the scope and meaning of its 1962 verdict, in which it ruled that the temple was located on Cambodian territory. Phnom Penh wanted the ICJ to explain who has sovereignty over the area surrounding the temple, which Thailand claims as its own. The ICJ will listen to another round of testimony in April and expects to deliver its final verdict later this year.

PAD spokesman Panthep Phuaphongphan said his group would submit its seven demands to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Tuesday, in which the government will be encouraged to speak up at The Hague in April and officially denounce the ICJ’s jurisdiction.

Once it has rejected the court’s jurisdiction, Thailand will no longer have to comply with the court’s injunction to withdraw troops from the disputed area, he said, adding that the government should also force all Cambodian people out of areas considered Thai territory.

He also called on the government to restore its standing with the UN Security Council to ensure that it will side with Thailand, adding that the United Nations and the Asean should exercise their respective charters to guarantee Thai sovereignty over the area and prevent foreign intervention.

Like Abhisit’s government, this government should also denounce Unesco’s World Heritage Convention, he said. The last demand was that the government help bring back national activists Veera Somkwamkid and Ratree Pipattanpaiboon, who were arrested in Cambodia for trespassing and espionage, he said.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul called a meeting with concerned officials to review the government’s strategy in the Preah Vihear case. He said that he had confidence in the information and evidence collected by the legal team, led by Thai Ambassador to the Hague Virachai Plasai.

“But if the outcome is not what is expected, then government will be concerned about the people’s feelings, as a certain group in the country is trying to spread the misconception of lost territory,” he said.

Opposition leader Abhisit said the government was not taking this issue seriously or using its good relations with Cambodia to benefit national interest.

“Without strong commitment from the government, we are not sure if we can win the trial. Nobody should blame the previous government for allowing Cambodia to take this case to court. Cambodia exercised its right to ask the court to interpret the [1962] judgement,” Abhisit said, adding Thailand must protect its rights in the court.

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