Yingluck Visits Cambodia as Thailand Seeks to Mend Links Hurt by Clashes

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will visit Cambodia today in a sign of improving ties after border fighting under her predecessor killed more than 20 people and led the United Nations to intervene.

Yingluck’s seven-hour visit “will help cool the situation and allow relations to come back to normal,” said Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a visiting research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. The trip will help mend ties over the border clashes and lay the groundwork for a deal for oil and gas exploration in disputed waters, he said.

Cambodia called last month for official talks with Yingluck to jointly develop areas of the Gulf of Thailand, where Chevron Corp. (CVX), Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BHP Billiton Ltd. have rights to explore for oil and gas. Yingluck’s trip precedes a visit tomorrow by her brother Thaksin Shinawatra, who Cambodia named as an adviser after he was deposed in a 2006 coup.

The United Nations court in July imposed a demilitarized zone around Preah Vihear temple, a World Heritage site at the center of deadly gun battles over the past three years.

Cambodia, granted sovereignty over the temple by the International Court of Justice in the Hague in 1962, had asked for measures to prevent more clashes while judges interpret a ruling to demarcate a nearby disputed area.

The 1962 court decision refrained from demarcating 4.6 square kilometers (1.8 square miles) of contested land around the temple, which has fueled the recent fighting. Former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who Yingluck unseated after her party won a majority in July elections, had opposed the World Heritage Committee’s consideration of Cambodia’s management plan for the temple on grounds that it infringes Thai sovereignty.

‘Return to Peace’

“Both governments want a return to peace and developing the joint interests of the two nations,” Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan said yesterday by phone from Phnom Penh, the capital. “It’s completely different from Abhisit, who always saw Cambodia as a second-class nation.”

Yingluck will return to Thailand tonight after meeting counterpart Hun Sen and King Norodom Sihamoni, Thai government spokesman Thitima Chaisang said. Thaksin, who remains a fugitive in his homeland, will visit Phnom Penh to give a lecture, Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan said.

Thailand and Cambodia have yet to demarcate their 803- kilometer (499-mile) land border and 26,993 square kilometers (10,422 square miles) in the Gulf of Thailand that may contain oil and gas reserves. Thailand’s $264 billion economy is about 26 times the size of Cambodia’s, according to statistics from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel Ten Kate in Bangkok at dtenkate@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net

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