PHNOM PENH (Xinhua) – Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh and his visiting Thai counterpart Prawit Wongsuwan on Wednesday pledged to enhance security and maintain peace along the border of the two countries.
“We agreed to increase cooperation in security and peace along the border,” Tea Banh told a joint press conference after the 10th meeting of Cambodia-Thailand General Border Committee.
He said the two neighbors will intensify cooperation in prevention and suppression on human and drug trafficking, labor exploitation, illegal logging and all kinds of trans-border crimes.
“We also agreed to enhance cooperation in fighting against terrorism and cracking down on weapon smuggling,” he added.
The two ministers also pledged to improve the livelihoods of the peoples along the border through facilitating daily trade activities and pushing for the establishment of special economic zones in border provinces.
The Thai government has planned to turn Thai-Cambodian border markets into “special economic areas” to accommodate next year’s opening of an Asean Economic Community.
Gen Pravit’s trip to Cambodia followed last October’s official visit to the Cambodian capital by Thai Premier Gen Prayut Chan-o- cha during which he met with Hun Sen and other top Cambodian government officials.
Accompanying the Thai deputy premier to Phnom Penh are army chief Gen Udomdet Sitabut, navy chief Adm Kraisorn Chansuvanit, air force chief ACM Tritod Sonjaeng, police chief Pol Gen Somyod Pumpandmoung, supreme commander Gen Vorapong Sa-nganet and undersecretary of defense Gen Sirichai Dithakul.
Gen Udomdet concurrently assumes a deputy defence portfolio in the Thai military-led government.
Relationships between Thailand and Cambodian turned sour during the tenure of former Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva which saw sporadic clashes along the common border killing and wounding dozens of soldiers and villagers on both sides. The border situation largely improved during the reign of former Thai leader Yingluck Shinawatra.
The current Thai leader earlier commented that Thai-Cambodian relationships are yet to be restored to the extent that both Asean member states mutually benefit from economic cooperation and jointly develop natural resources.
As many as 200,000 Cambodian migrant workers, mostly being illegally hired in Thailand, scrambled to return home via border passes shortly after Gen Prayut and other Thai top brass members seized power from the Yingluck government in the May 22 coup.
The Cambodians, employed for jobs at construction sites and farms in Bangkok’s outlying areas and other parts of the country, feared they might be arrested as illegal workers by Thai authorities.