Subject: Nation: Thailand yet to decide on peace force

Also: AFP: Thailand approves Philippines Timor commander

The Nation (Thailand) December 17, 1999

Thailand yet to decide on peace force

Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai said yesterday that Thailand will have to discuss and decide if it should participate in the United Nations peace-keeping operation in East Timor.

But he said if Thailand decides to, the size of its force in the third phase of the UN operation in the soon-to-be independent country will be smaller as the global body has scaled down the number of foreign troops to be deployed there.

The premier said Thailand has no problem working with the Philippine general who will be nominated to head the peace force in East Timor. Thailand and Malaysia had initially expressed their desire to have their nationals head the UN operation.

"There is no problem for us [working under the Philippine general] because we didn't apply for the position. We will cooperate as much as we can, as we did before," he said.

Chuan, also defence minister, said privately that the Army has expressed its interest to continue its mission in East Timor, but the final decision and the size of the Thai force have yet to be discussed.

A senior Thai Army general is presently serving as second-in-command of the current Australian-led international force which was deployed to end the violence that erupted shortly after the East Timor referendum in August. The third phase of the "blue helmet" UN peace-keeping operation is due to go into effect early next year.

Chuan, meanwhile, rejected the opposition's criticism that the Thai force in East Timor has been engaging in singing and dancing activities. He said the entertainment is part and parcel of the armed forces.

Thailand has nearly 1,600 soldiers deployed in the territory. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said early this week that a Filipino commander would be appointed to head the UN force. The deputy commander will be an Australian. Annan did not name the two.

---- Agence France Presse December 16, 1999, Thursday Thailand approves Philippines Timor commander


Thailand on Thursday pledged to work with the Philippine general nominated to head the UN peace force in East Timor but hinted it would cut the size of its garrison in the ravaged territory.

Thailand is serving as second-in-command of the current Australian-led multinational force in East Timor but has been reluctant to assume a leading role in the new "blue helmet" UN force due to assume control next year.

"There is no problem that we are not getting the commander's post because we did not file any application and we will continue to cooperate whenever we can," Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai told reporters.

Chuan, who also serves as defence minister, said he will consult with armed forces commanders on the level of Thai troops needed in East Timor.

"There will be an adjustment of the numbers of troops since the UN will reduce the size of peacekeeping forces," he said.

Thailand currently has 1,581 troops in the international force which went into the territory after it was engulfed by violence led by pro-Jakarta militias after voting for independence from Indonesia in August.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Tuesday that he would appoint a commander from the Philippines to head the UN force. He did not name the man.

The deputy commander will be an Australian, Annan said.

The peacekeepers are part of a United Nations transitional authority, known as UNTAET, which has already taken over the civilian government of East Timor to prepare it for independence.

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