Monday, 14 February 2011

Abhisit insists on bilateral solution

via CAAI

Published: 14/02/2011

The government will tell the United Nations Security Council today that it it is persevering with its plan to solve the border dispute with Cambodia through bilateral talks.

Cambodia has decided to boycott a meeting of the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) later this month, but Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday the reaction was to be expected.

Thailand still saw the importance of the JBC meeting for handling the conflict and hoped Cambodia would change its mind, he told his weekly television and radio broadcast.

Prime Minister Abhisit said he knew about Phnom Penh's intention to boycott the JBC but had yet to receive official word from the Cambodian government.

"Cambodia is playing the game," Mr Abhisit said, adding that Phnom Penh hoped to derail the JBC to shut the door on bilateral channels for solving the dispute.

It has asked the UN Security Council to intervene as it wants a larger audience, he said.

The prime minister said Cambodia's call on the UNSC and third countries to intervene to solve the border conflict was not right.

He said Thailand was confident it could make a strong case at the closed-door UNSC meeting in New York today to show that Phnom Penh had sparked the stand-off over the disputed territory adjacent to Preah Vihear temple, which on the Thai side has left two soldiers and one civilian dead.

Border fighting between Thailand and Cambodia took place between Feb4 and 7.

About 21,000 villagers living in Kantharalak district of Si Sa Ket province were evacuated and sheltered in dozens of emergency relief centres across the province.

Shortly after the border skirmish erupted, both countries sent letters to the UNSC president to inform her about developments.

The UN security body expressed concerns over the deteriorating border situation and called an urgent meeting with Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, as the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), in New York today to find solutions.

The hearing will begin at 10am New York time (10pm Thai time) and take about 90 minutes.

The Cambodian and Thai foreign ministers, and Asean chairman Marty Natalegawa, will have 30 minutes each to speak.

Following the UN session, Foreign Affairs Minister Kasit Piromya would hold meetings with UN agencies in New York to update them and put Thailand's side of the saga.

Mr Abhisit said Mr Kasit would exploit the UNSC platform to prove that Cambodia opened fire first during the four days of border clashes.

"We have all the information and facts [about the Thai-Cambodian fighting], which we are preparing to put to the UNSC," Mr Abhisit said.

The Foreign Ministry had compiled evidence, including still photos and video footage from the media to substantiate Thailand's accounts that Cambodia started the fighting and that Thai soldiers exercised their right to defend themselves, aiming strictly at military targets.

Cambodia also used Preah Vihear temple as one of its military bases to launch attacks, which violated an agreement of the World Heritage Committee, he said.

"We're confident that we can block Cambodia's attempt to upgrade the matter to an international level," Mr Abhisit said.

"If others want to get involved, they can only come in as supporters of bilateral talks," Mr Abhisit said.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty, as the present Asean chair, has invited Asean foreign ministers to attend an Asean ministerial meeting to help deal with the dispute on Feb 22 in Jakarta.

Foreign Minister Kasit has confirmed he will take part at the meeting.

Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong was quoted by Japanese Kyodo News Agency on Saturday as saying Cambodia was also prepared to attend.

Mr Abhisit yesterday repeated his calls on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) to help reduce border tensions by putting Cambodia's management plan for the 4.6-square-kilometre disputed areas on hold.

The management plan is likely to be discussed at the meeting of the WHC in Bahrain this June, but Mr Abhisit wants the discussion put off, as the border situation is still sensitive.

Mr Abhisit also expressed his concern over Unesco's plan to send officials to inspect the impact of the spat on the Preah Vihear temple, saying the inspection by the Unesco delegation would add more fuel to the conflict.

Former Unesco director-general Koichiro Matsuura has been appointed to head Unesco's inspection team.

"Unesco should realise that naming Preah Vihear temple as a world heritage site is part of the dispute," Mr Abhisit said.

"So this situation should be handled carefully."

The prime minister said Unesco must seek permission from Thailand if it really wanted to send its representatives to inspect the temple.

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