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Conflict goes international in Thai-Cambodian border

Thai efforts to resolve the boundary conflict with Cambodia
bilaterally have failed, with international bodies including the United
Nations Security Council and Asean now involved in the matter.
The
skirmishes from February 4-7 killed at least eight people, including a
Thai civilian, and damaged properties including the World
Heritage-listed Preah Vihear Temple.
Unlike in past clashes in 2008 and 2009, the UN Security Council has not been deterred from taking up the issue.
Cambodian
Prime Minister Hun Sen consistently called for the UN body to convene
an urgent meeting to stop “Thailand’s aggression”. At the same time,
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva wrote to the UN reiterating
Thailand’s commitment to end the dispute using a bilateral framework.
Bangkok
suggested the Joint Boundary Committee (JBC) should resume its work
negotiating boundary demarcation by the end of this month, though the
exact date has yet to be confirmed. The Cambodians are not likely in
the mood to sit down and talk right now.
Hun Sen’s strategy to
internationalise the issue appears to have worked. The Security Council
has requested that its secretariat provide a brief about the situation
on Monday and invited Asean chairman Marty Natalegawa, Thai Foreign
Minister Kasit Piromya and Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong to
attend.
“The Asean chair’s attendance at the UNSC meeting
represents an evolution of Asean’s efforts to resolve bilateral
disputes among its members as provided for by the Asean Charter,” the
bloc’s secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan said in a statement yesterday.
“This is particularly important as it will set a precedent for future Asean dispute settlement mechanisms.”
The
Security Council wants its meeting on Monday to boost and complement
regional and bilateral efforts, rather than signal that those efforts
have failed in any way, according to a UNSC update report.
“The
[UNSC] members expressed support for the mediation efforts undertaken
by the chair of Asean, the foreign minister of Indonesia, but expressed
willingness to hold a Council meeting pending an assessment of the
ongoing regional mediation efforts,” the report said.
It remains
unclear what the results of the UN meeting will be. Security Council
president Maria Luiza Viotti, a Brazilian ambassador, will consult with
Kasit and Hor Namhong on the format of the meeting later, the report
said.
Hun Sen has asked the UN to send peacekeeping forces to
create a buffer zone at the disputed border area adjacent to Preah
Vihear, which he claims was damaged by artillery shells from Thailand.
The
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
(Unesco) has proposed sending an urgent mission to inspect the temple,
but Thailand opposes the visit.
“Concerning the current situation
at the border, we believe the Unesco mission now is not appropriate and
makes the issue more complicated,” said Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman
Thani Thongpakdi.
If the Unesco mission really wanted to visit
the site, it would need permission from the Thai authorities, since it
would have to access the temple via land under the sovereignty of
Thailand, he said.
The Hindu temple of Preah Vihear, as ruled by
the International Court of Justice in 1962, is situated on territory
under sovereignty of Cambodia, though Thailand has argued that it
possesses the surrounding areas.
The temple has been at the core
of conflict between the two neighbors since last century. In 2008,
tensions rose after Unesco listed the temple as a World Heritage site
in the face of Thai disagreement.
Abhisit’s government hoped the border skirmish would result in the suspension of the Preah Vihear World Heritage listing.
Thailand’s
JBC chief, Asda Jayanama, will meet with the director of Unesco in
Paris today to explain the Thai position on the temple. 
The Jarkata Post
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Categories: Local News
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