DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — Thailand’s prime minister told The Associated Press on Friday that protesters demanding it revoke its pact with Cambodia over a border dispute have a right to make they’re demands, but he will do what is best for the country.
Speaking Friday at the World Economic Forum, Abhisit Vejjajiva said that since both nations are part of ASEAN any resolution must be done in a peaceful manner yet protect Thai interests, too.
“You know, they can make their demands. They have the right to do so. We have to do what is the best for the country,” he told AP. “We feel that the way we approach the border problems, and the problems — as far as the relationship with Cambodia is concerned — is best for the country, which is that we try to resolve whatever issues come up in a peaceful manner.”
Earlier this week, a rally by the People’s Alliance for Democracy — also known as the Yellow Shirts — and an associated fringe group, raised tensions in a country still recovering from political violence last year that turned parts of the capital into a war zone. Police on Monday arrested five men accused of plotting to bomb the protest.
The demonstrators set up a stage along a major street near the U.N.’s Asian headquarters and Government House, the prime minister’s office that the Yellows occupied for three months in 2008.
The protesters want the government to revoke a pact with Cambodia on settling border disputes; withdraw from the U.N. Education Scientific and Culture Organization World Heritage Committee, which approved Cambodia’s application for landmark status for a temple on the border; and force Cambodian residents off land the group claims should belong to Thailand.
“So that we preserve good relations — we are both part of ASEAN — and at the same time we make sure that we protect Thai interests,” he said. “So all we can do is to explain to them (that) we feel that this is the best approach and I am confident that majority of Thai people support” it.
The Cambodian issue has its origins in a dispute between Cambodia and Thailand over land near a landmark temple on their border, but has evolved into a Thai domestic political issue.
The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple belongs to Cambodia, but the decision rankled Thailand, which still claims land around the temple.
As for neighboring Myanmar, he said while its recent elections “may not be perfect,” they were “an important first step and what we want to do now is to see the gradual opening up and making sure that political process becomes more inclusive, and we hope that the rest of the world will try to make sure that we can support Myanmar to do that.”
He pointed to the release earlier this year of Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in November after seven years under house arrest as a “positive step” in that process.
Afterward, she gave a recorded address to the Forum, urging investment in technology and infrastructure, and micro-lending programs in her country, but said investors “should pay close attention to the costs and collateral damage of our development, whether environmental or social.”
Suu Kyi’s party won the country’s last election, in 1990, but the army would not let it take power and refused to convene parliament. The first parliamentary session since 1988 is to convene Monday, dominated by a military-sponsored party.
Suu Kyi spoke to the Davos participants hours after Myanmar’s highest court declined Friday to hear a case she filed seeking to overturn the government’s dissolution of her party.
Grant Peck in Bangkok contributed to this report.