By The Nation
Published on February 21, 2011
Cambodia may propose Asean monitors to be based at Preah Vihear Temple
Thailand continued its delicate diplomatic manoeuvring over its territorial conflict with Cambodia yesterday with an invitation for Indonesia, in its capacity as Asean chair, to send observers to the border.
Bangkok has also reaffirmed its stance that existing bilateral mechanisms can solve the dispute.
In a statement underlying Thailand's cautious approach in regard to Asean, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said the Thai government expected the regional group's involvement would ensure talks between the two countries stay on course.
"I strongly insist the Thai side will rely on bilateral [consultations] with Cambodia," he said.
Talks on the boundary would be led by ambassador Asda Jayanama, while talks on border cooperation would be led by Defence Minister Prawit Wongsu-wan, and talks on regional affairs would be led by 2nd Army Region commander Lt General Thawatchai Samutsakorn.
Kasit was speaking after a high-level meeting to map out the Thai position ahead of the Asean meeting of foreign ministers in Jakarta tomorrow to discuss the Thai-Cambodian conflict.
The Asean meeting will be a follow-up to the statement by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), he said, alluding to the call to use existing mechanisms to resolve the border row.
He said Thai-Cambodian talks were still a viable way to resolve the border dispute. Asean's involvement to facilitate the talks, as suggested by the UNSC, was in line with keeping the negotiations at a bilateral level.
The Thai side has already mapped out an invitation to restart the Joint Boundary Committee and the General Border Commission. Prawit had also signalled a readiness for the next meeting to be hosted by Phnom Penh, he said.
Commenting on the ceasefiredeal between the two armed forces on Saturday, Prawit said it was not a formal document but an outcome of an informal meeting between military leaders.
Military leaders from the two sides reported back on the truce they had mapped out pending a review by their respective governments, he said.
To show their goodwill for a truce, the Thai side would request the presence of Indonesian observers deployed with Thai troops along the border, he said. Prawit hinted at a possible counter proposal as Cambodia has indicated it wants Asean observers to be stationed at Preah Vihear Temple.
Observers see Thailand's diplomacy as treading between keeping Asean at a distance and recognising the grouping's role by showing faith in the chair country, currently Indonesia.
Kasit said the Thai side deemed it unnecessary to formalise and sign the ceasefire agreement since the dispute could be settled through bilateral talks.
He said Unesco agreed with Thailand that deploying peacekeeping forces at the temple would violate the Bern Convention.
Today the Defence Ministry is due to take foreign military attaches from Bangkok to inspect the civilian damage caused by the border flare-up.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Saturday's meeting between military leaders did not represent a formal deal between the two governments.
Abhisit said he clearly outlined to Unesco that the border dispute covering the 4.6 square kilometres was a sensitive issue not linked to the listing of the temple as a World Heritage Site. The dispute had to be resolved by the two countries without any interference from Unesco and other outside parties.
Meanwhile, the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) yesterday slammed the border truce with Cambodia as a "stupid deal" coming at the expense of Thai territory.
"Thailand is at a huge disadvantage as Cambodia has already seized areas surrounding Preah Vihear Temple," spokesman Panthep Pour-pongpan claimed.
On Saturday, Army Chief-of-Staff General Dapong Rattanasuan and Cambodian Deputy Supreme Commander General Jia Dara reached an eight-point agreement to halt hostilities after negotiations at Surin's Chong Sangam border checkpoint.
The PAD condemned the cease-fire, particularly the ban on the use of heavy weapons, because it limited Thailand's options in repelling Cambodian encroachment, Panthep said.