Sunday, 13 February 2011

Cambodia to claim 'war' with Thailand

via CAAI


Published: 13/02/2011
Cambodia will argue that it is at war with Thailand and that intervention from a third party is needed when it presents its case to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) tomorrow.

A senior source in the Cambodian government also said they would produce evidence that the Thai military had been the aggressors during the border clashes and had used banned weapons, including cluster bombs and poison gas.

The source also said Cambodia was willing to let the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) play the third-party role, but he insisted that bilateral approaches employed since July 2008 to resolve the border dispute surrounding Preah Vihear temple had failed.

The chair of Asean, Indonesia's Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, has invited all the association's foreign ministers to a meeting in Jakarta on Feb 22 to discuss the dispute.

The Cambodian source said there were two reasons for the UN to intervene _ its successful running of elections in Cambodia in 1993, and as Preah Vihear was heritage-listed, it is the responsibility of Unesco to protect it.

"We have all the documents, all the evidence," he said.

"The role of the United Nations is to stop any war in the world, and this is a war between Cambodia and Thailand. It's not a small clash.

"So we'll present the case to the United Nations, we'll present the case to Unesco to show the damage to the temple. If necessary we can go to the International Court of Justice again," he said.

The UNSC meeting, which will be attended by the foreign ministers of Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, is expected to be informal and to take place behind closed doors.

The council consulted twice on the issue last week after letters were sent first by Cambodia and then Thailand. However, member nations have already expressed support for mediation efforts by Mr Marty.

National Security Council secretary-general Thawil Pliensri said concerned agencies, including the NSC, had prepared evidence for the UNSC meeting.

He said he was confident that Thailand will be able to defend itself against Cambodia's charges, adding that there were some platforms, such as Asean, where the parties could work to resolve the problem.

Other Thai officials and diplomats said that "technically" Thailand should succeed in meeting Cambodia's challenge at the meeting.

"If the council on Monday merely listens to the three [foreign ministers] and urges Thailand and Cambodia to continue their negotiations, perhaps with Asean's or Indonesia's assistance, then we'll have time to continue the negotiations with Cambodia although with more parties looking over our shoulders," said a seasoned diplomat.

However, he added that if the council were to do otherwise, Thailand had to be very careful, as its decision was binding on all UN members.

A Bangkok-based diplomat from one of the UNSC's five permanent members said the most likely outcome was "no statement, no vote, and discussion that urges the two countries to work together to resolve the disputes bilaterally".

Another Bangkok-based European diplomat said Thailand had become more isolated in the international arena since the 2006 coup and the subsequent political turmoil which had diminished its traditional role as a hub to develop regional consensus.

"Thailand was always a voice to be listened to, a stopover for major powers to seek consultations on regional issues," the source said.

"Now they choose to deepen more links with Indonesia."

One retired diplomat expressed concern that Thailand's "technical" arguments might be undermined by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's appeasement of the People's Alliance Democracy (PAD), which may have weakened the Foreign Ministry's case.

"Abhisit usually says it's a matter for the foreign ministry, but when the PAD pushed for a harsh nationalistic tone, he silenced the ministry's legal experts," said the diplomat.

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