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Cambodia seeks Asean help

P Penh wants association to dispatch monitors but Thailand rejects call as border clash
drags on Cambodia will request that Asean send observers to monitor and
ensure a permanent ceasefire in the disputed border areas adjacent to
the Hindu temple of Preah Vihear, as border skirmishes with Thailand
showed no signs of ending.

“I will ask for Asean observers in the
area to control and ensure a permanent ceasefire,” Cambodian Foreign
Minister Hor Namhong said at Phnom Penh International Airport yesterday
upon his arrival from New York after the meeting of the United Nations
Security Council on the Cambodian-Thai border conflict.
“We
will wait and see if Thailand accepts this suggestion or not, we will
know the real ambition of Thailand,” he was quoted as saying by Xinhua.
Thailand immediately rejected Cambodia’s idea, saying it was
unnecessary as the border conflict between the two neighbouring
countries was not so complicated.
Asean has called a meeting of
its foreign ministers next Tuesday in Jakarta to discuss the border
dispute between the regional grouping’s two members.
The
Security Council in its meeting on Monday urged the parties to
establish a “permanent ceasefire” and fully implement it through
effective negotiations. The UN body supported Asean’s role in seeking a
solution to end the conflict and urged Thailand and Cambodia to
cooperate with the organisation in this regard.
It is not clear
yet how the current chairman of Asean, Indonesian Foreign Minister
Marty Natalegawa, will conduct the meeting next week.
Thailand
expects the meeting will be an informal one to exchange views and
information on the situation, said the foreign minister’s secretary,
Chavanond Intarakomalyasut.
“We have a very firm stance about
solving this issue through bilateral mechanism and don’t want to make
the matter more complicated,” he said.
“What the two countries need to do is just simply stop firing and sit face-to-face to solve the problem.”
Thailand
will not propose anything at the Jakarta meeting but merely present
facts, listen to the views of members and create an atmosphere for
reconciliation to pave the way for bilateral talks, Chavanond said.
However, Cambodia expects Asean to take some action to ensure peace in the disputed area.
“From
now on, I will ask the Asean chairman or representative to join every
meeting between Cambodia and Thailand,” Hor Namhong said. “Even at the
meeting of the Cambodia-Thailand Joint Boundary Committee, there must
be a representative from Asean, because we have negotiated a lot with
Thailand – from 2008 to 2010 – it was useless.
“The
negotiations reach an agreement, but they don’t implement it, making
the excuse that it has not been passed by their Parliament,” he said.
Thailand
and Cambodia have been at loggerheads over the boundary at Preah Vihear
for a long time. The current spate of violence erupted in 2008 when
Phnom Penh managed to get the Hindu temple listed as a World Heritage
Site despite Thailand’s disagreement.
Cambodia has, since then,
tried to raise the conflict at international forums, including the UN
and Asean, seeking help from the organisations to ensure peace in the
area.
The issue reached the UN and Asean after a heavy border
skirmish from February 4-7, which killed at least 10 people, including
three civilians on both sides. Both sides accused each other of
starting the fire and invading the territory of the other.
“If
Thailand accuses Cambodia of invasion and firing first, it should not
reject observers to ensure a permanent ceasefire,” Hor Namhong said.
The
fighting has continued off and on. Another clash took place in the
early hours of yesterday as troops from both sides exchanged small arms
fire at Phu Ma Khua hill, a few kilometres west of Preah Vihear. There
was no report of any casualties.
Cambodian troops failed at
several attempts to break through the Thai front line at the area
because of strong resistance, Army spokesman Sansern Kaeowkamnerd said.
Hor
Namhong accused Thailand of aggression, saying that “despite the UNSC
issuing a statement calling for a permanent ceasefire, Thailand still
violated it and opened fire into Cambodian territory”.
On Tuesday
night, “they still shot … It was strong, they fired mortars and threw
many grenades into our land, and almost every night since before the
meeting of the UNSC, they have opened fire and thrown grenades into our
land,” he said.
Meanwhile Thai Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan
is trying to engage in negotiations with his Cambodian counterpart Tea
Banh to forge a permanent ceasefire as suggested by the UN, Chavanond
said.
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