Bangkok — Opposition is growing among Thai politicians and military officials to their government's policy of confrontation with Vietnam over Cambodia. Many of them appear to favor a more flexible approach to Hanoi.
The former prime minister, Gen. Kriangsak Chamanan, campaigned on that policy during a recent parliamentary by-election, which he won overwhelmingly.
General Kriangsak declared, "It's time all the parties involved in the Cambodian issue came together and talked, the Western world, the communist world , the third world.
Under Premier Prem Tinsulanonda, Thailand has emerged, along with Singapore, as one of Southeast Asia's "hawks" on Vietnam's occupation of Cambodia.
Thailand has favored a negotiated settlement of the Cambodia problem which would both preserve an independent Cambodia and reassure Vietman against attack by China.
But the Thai government has also favors continuing pressure on Vietnam by indirect support for anti-Vietnamese Cambodian resistance groups. It refuses unilateral concessions which, it fears, might simply encourage Vietnamese agressiveness without getting anything in return.
The Prem government sees Thailand's security as best maintained by joining the United States and China and making Vietnam "pay" for its occupation of Cambodia
But critics see the government as excessively obstinate in refusing direct talks with Vietnam and insisting that negotiations must involve all interested nations, including the US, the Soviet Union, China, and Japan.
They feel improved relations with Vietnam would increase Thai security by making hostilities between Thailand and Vietnam on the Thai-Cambodian border less likely.
a former Thai foreign minister, Bhichai Rattakul, who supports General Kriangsak, declares, "The Vietnamese threat to Thailand will die out if and when Vietnam pulls its troops out of Cambodia. I believe it will do that if Thailand stops helping the antinamese resistance groups."
Those views are shared by some senior military officers including many of those involved in last April's abortive coup against the government. At the time, calls for a new approach to Vietnam was one of the most popular points in the program of coup leaders.
Academics and other influential Thais on the fringe of government also express misgivings about the government's policy.
A recent seminar in Bangkok, attended by a senior Hanoi official, urged the government to be more flexible.
Developlments elsewhere also contribute to the new thinking in Thailand. Suspicions about China's long-term intentions in the region are being voiced throughout southeast Asia.
Reports tht Peking has asked Thailand to permit Cambodian resistance groups to get up a military heaquarters on Thai territory have alarmed some Thai officials and military officers.
Official delegations from Indonesia, Japan, and the Philippines have just been in Hanoi taking about Cambodia. Vietnam, some report, is still willing to talk directly on Cambodia with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
The Japanese went on to Phnom Penh for the first official Japanese talks with the Heng Samrin government, which japan does not recognize.
Japanese ministers and officials appear to be distancing themselves from the American and Chinese strategy of making life as though as possible for Vietnam
Those in Thailand and elsewhere seeking a new approach to Vietnam agree tht any settlement in Cambodia must include cast-iron guarantees of Vietnam's security. Indeed, some say that as a demonstration of good intentions those guarantees should be on the negotiating table before Vietnam begins to withdraw its Army.