The deteriorating situation along the Thai-Cambodian border is undermining confidence in Asean and affecting economic recovery, tourism and investment prospect in the region, said Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in his urgent message to the two ASEAN Member States now trading fires with casualties on both sides.
"I am deeply concerned about the serious situation on the border between Thailand and Cambodia. This violent conflict must be brought under control and return to negotiating table soonest," said Dr. Surin.
The violent conflict started with gun fire and artillery duels mid afternoon Friday near the Preah Vihear temple. While the International Court of Justice decided in favor of Cambodia in 1962, the areas adjacent to the Temple remain under dispute.
"I have been in touch with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cambodia Hor Namhong, and the Foreign Minister of Thailand, Kasit Piromya, and I have appealed for calm, maximum restraint on both sides, and expressed my fervent desire to see both sides return to a negotiating table as soon as possible, said the Asean Secretary-General.
Dr Surin Pitsuwan also called both sides to allow Asean to help bring them to some form of a temporary truce and cool down the emotions and temper so that a higher interest of both peoples and that of Asean can be protected and enhanced.
"The situation has escalated into open conflict. And that will definitely affect our economic development, confidence in our region, and tourism and prospect for foreign investment, which have just been picking up in light of the world economic recovery," said Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan, who is a former Foreign Minister of Thailand.
Diplomatic sources said Indonesia, the current chair of Asean, is also stepping up its diplomatic efforts to help the two sides arrive at a temporary solution so as to allow the bilateral mechanisms between them to accomplish their objectives of border demarcation and a general peace in the areas.
"I understand both sides now welcome some form of mediation by the Asean leadership," Surin said, without elaborating.