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UN to meet over Preah Vihear

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong is set to appear tomorrow alongside his
Thai counterpart before the United Nations Security Council as the body
addresses the outbreak of fighting between the two countries earlier
this month.
Foreign Minister Hor Namhong speaks to reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport before departing for New York on Friday. Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Cambodian and Thai troops stationed at the border near
Preah Vihear temple engaged in four consecutive days of clashes earlier
this month, leaving at least 10 people dead and displacing thousands of
civilians from both nations.
Speaking at the Phnom Penh
International Airport prior to his departure for New York on Friday, Hor
Namhong said he planned to brief the Security Council about Thailand’s
“invasion”.
“I will inform the UN about the reasons that Thailand
is making war against Cambodia and I will request that the UN guarantee
an end to the fighting,” he said.
Prime Minister Hun Sen called last week for the UN to deploy peacekeepers along the border in a bid to stem the hostilities.
Thailand,
however, has consistently argued that the conflict would be best
resolved under the auspices of the countries’ bilateral Joint Border
Committee.
In his weekly television address today, Thai premier
Abhisit Vejjajiva reportedly said Thailand would use the UN meeting to
refute Cambodia’s claims about Thai aggression and press for a bilateral
resolution to the conflict.
“We’re confident that we can explain that [Cambodia’s claims] are wrong,” Abhisit said.
“Cambodia is calling for [intervention by] a third country, the UN and peacekeeping forces.
“Thailand will call for a return to bilateral talks on demarcation.”
Thai
officials including Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya are prepared to
present evidence to the UN showing that Cambodia used Preah Vihear as a
military base in violation of its international obligations.
Tensions
between the two countries have been heightened since 2008, when the
11th century temple was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site for
Cambodia over Thai objections.
At least seven troops had been killed in periodic skirmishes in the area prior to the most recent round of clashes.
UNESCO
said in a statement on Friday that former UNESCO head Koichiro Matsuura
of Japan had been appointed as Special Envoy to address the Preah
Vihear issue with Cambodia and Thailand.
“Mr Matsuura … will visit Bangkok and Phnom Penh to discuss how the World Heritage site can be safeguarded.
“He
will examine with both sides how to lessen tension and promote dialogue
around the preservation of the temple, within the organisation’s
mandate,” UNESCO said.
No date has yet been announced for Matsuura’s visit.
The
temple sustained surface-level damage to its staircases and exterior
during the fighting from bullet and artillery fire, while Wat Keo Sekha
Kirisvara, a nearby pagoda, was also hit.
Thailand and Cambodia
clashed at a UNESCO meeting last year in Brazil at which the Kingdom
submitted management plans for the temple.
Thailand has called for
the site’s World Heritage registration to be delayed pending a
resolution of the countries’ border disagreement.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has also offered assistance in resolving the dispute.
Indonesia,
which holds the ASEAN chair, has invited foreign ministers from all 10
members of the regional bloc to a meeting in Jakarta on February 22 to
discuss the issue, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said.
Thailand
has also agreed to attend the ASEAN meeting, which Indonesian Foreign
Minister Marty Natalegawa has said will aim to facilitate a bilateral
solution to the dispute.
Natalegawa met with senior Cambodian and Thai officials last week to discuss the issue.
In
a statement issued on Saturday, the Council of Ministers’ Press and
Quick Reaction Unit said four Cambodian soldiers, one policeman and two
civilians had been killed in the clashes.
Some 31 people were injured and 2,956 families were displaced by the fighting, the statement added.
“Although
there have been no major attacks since 7 February, there remains a high
risk that renewed attacks may be mounted at any time, particularly as
Thailand continues to increase  its forces and weaponry along the
Cambodian-Thai border,” the statement said.
Men Sophea, a
Cambodian solider stationed at the border, said today that the situation
at the border was quiet, though he claimed Thai troops had attempted
over the weekend to provoke their Cambodian counterparts by setting off
grenades near the frontline.
The Bangkok Post reported on Saturday that Thai commanders had ordered an additional 20,000 troops to the area.
Chum
Poy, governor of Kulen district in Preah Vihear province, said today
that roughly 500 of the 2,956 families evacuated in the fighting had
returned to their homes.
Local officials will consider allowing
the remaining families to return home after learning the result of the
UN meeting today, he said.
Groups including the National Committee
for Disaster Management and the Cambodian Red Cross are providing aid
to the displaced, and on Friday, Hun Sen ordered government officials to
provide further assistance in accommodation and sanitation at the
temporary shelters.
Phnom Penh Post
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Categories: Local News
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