Tuesday, 30 September 2008

UN chief comments Thai-Cambodian conflict

Tue, September 30, 2008
By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation
New York

The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon suggested that the border disputes between Thailand and Cambodia should be settled bilaterally, Foreign Minister Sompong Amornwiwat said Monday.

The UN chief told ministers of both sides while they together with other colleagues from the Asean met with him on the sideline of the UN General Assembly here.

Thailand-Cambodia border conflict was among the issues including the Burma's rehabilitation after Cyclone Nargis discussed between the Asean ministers and Secretary General Ban.

The border conflict came into the UN attention as Phnom Penh wanted to bring the issue to the UN Security Council since July. It was put on hold since both sides have many bilateral mechanisms to handle such conflict.

Prior to the meeting with Ban, Sompong and Cambodian deputy foreign minister Ouch Borith also briefed an informal Asean ministerial meeting on the progress of border dispute settlement.

They needed to report Asean since Cambodia put the conflict into the group during the ministerial meeting in Singapore in July. The Asean also told them to solve the problem bilaterally.

The two neighbors have been in conflict since Cambodia managed to list the Hindu temple of Preah Vihear as a world heritage site and angry Thai protesters forced the military to deploy troops to stand off with Cambodia since July.

Previous government negotiated to redeploy troops in the areas to only ten each of both sides in the dispute areas and remained some 20 each nearby.

Sompong said the UN chief and Asean ministers agreed the bilateral mechanisms could end the conflict although it would take time.

"We told the Asean ministers that there is no longer confrontation since previous negotiations manage to reduce number of troops," he said.

The minister said he would visit Cambodia shortly after the parliament session for policy announcement which due October 7-8.

"I intend to visit Phnom Penh around the same time with Laos to pave the way for Prime Minister's visit in coming weeks," Sompong told reporters.

Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat would visit Cambodia on October 13 to discuss the border dispute.

Sompong said his Cambodia colleagues wanted to bring other disputed areas near Ta Muen Thom temple in Oddar Meanchey and Surin provinces into the next discussion. Both sides claimed sovereignty in the border areas where the Khmer sanctuary was situated.

Cambodia has already piled up the third Hindu sanctuary of Ta Kwai into the pipe line but Thailand has not yet put into the agenda for discussion.

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