Thais shift on Vietnam to end Cambodia woes

Thailand is edging toward a dialogue with neighboring Vietnam in an effort to put an end to the bloodshed and hunger in war-torn Cambodia. Thai Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda's current tour of Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines is officially seen as a "routine" visit.

But unofficially, the new head of the "frontline state" against Vietnamese-occupied Cambodia is believed to be searching for commong ground with these noncommunist members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) over a negotiated solution to Cambodian fighting and the exodus of refugees.

There have been hints that some Thai officials may favor cautiously improving relations with Vietnam -- through such steps as negotiated settlement, qualified recognition of the Vietnamese-backed Heng Samrin government, or a more closed-door approach to the influx of refugees and anti-vietnamese guerrillas.

There have also been signs that Vietnam, as well as the Soviet Union and China, may be amenable to a negotiated settlement.

Any Thai policy shift upset the ASEAN balance of forces between those favoring a softer line toward Vietnam (Malaysia and Indonesia) and those favoring a tougher approach (Singapore).

As if to defuse such speculaton, however, Mr. Tinsulanonda, recently insisted on a Vietnamese troop withdrawal from Cambodia as a base for a political solution.

There is also no evidence that Vietnam will agree to any kind of a coalition government.

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