Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Protesters block Veera from casino site while Prawit dismisses concerns

Mar 29. 2017
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By The Nation

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ACTIVIST Veera Somkwamkid was forced yesterday to halt plans to inspect a casino, which he has said was built on a boundary area overlapping Thailand, as local residents protested against his visit, while Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan refused to take his concerns seriously.

More than 100 local traders and villagers gathered near the border checkpoint at Chong Sai Taku in Buri Ram’s Ban Kruat district after they learned that Veera planned to visit the casino.

Meanwhile, Prawit, who is also defence minister, led a delegation of security officials to a General Border Committee meeting in Siem Reap to discuss a wide range of issues on border security, but the controversial issue about the casino in the Buri Ram area was not included on the agenda.

The two-day meeting beginning yesterday is a routine gathering between security officials co-chaired by defence ministers Prawit for Thailand and General Tea Banh for Cambodia. The event marks the 12th annual meeting.

The talks were meant to focus on strengthening cooperation between the two countries’ militaries, particularly in maintaining peace, stability, security and development along the border, and notably on the prevention of transborder crimes, an official said.

Prawit said there would not be a specific focus on issues such as the Preah Vihear Temple or the casino on the agenda and he had no intention of informal discussions.

“Our relations are going well now and we can talk about all relevant issues but we don’t need to talk [about the issues] now,” he told reporters as he left for Siem Reap.

While Veera has accused the military of allowing the casino to be built on the border overlapping Buri Ram’s Ban Kruad district, Prawit said the accusation was not an issue for the two countries.

“It’s nothing, and people in the area know the reality,” he said, adding that local people did not want Veera to disturb their lives.

Local residents said they did not want Veera to cause trouble for them, adding the casino generated tourism and income.

The casino, under the brand of the Sai Taku resort, was apparently built close to a border gate on the Cambodian side.

The land boundary between Thailand and Cambodia was delimited when Cambodia was a French colony in the early 20th century. Boundary pillars in the area were damaged, removed or simply disappeared for many reasons including accidents and conflicts over the years.

In modern times, the two countries have not demarcated the boundary line clearly.

The military and relevant agencies have insisted that they had checked with their Cambodian counterparts and found the casino was not on overlapping area.

Veera wrote on Facebook that the confrontation with local people occurred just as Army chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart had warned him it would on Tuesday.

Veera questioned whether the group of local people had been organised with the specific aim of obstructing him from meeting the media and investigating the casino.

A noted nationalist, Veera was released from Cambodian prison in July 2014 after facing charges of espionage and |trespassing on Cambodian |territory in December 2010 as |he tried to enter the country to prove Thai sovereignty at a |border area near Sa Kaew province.


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