Sunday, 20 February 2011

Interview: Cambodia, Thai border row harms ASEAN security community efforts

via CAAI

February 20, 2011

Cambodian and Thai border row near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple could harm the efforts of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) toward a community by 2015, said analysts here on Saturday.

"ASEAN will be difficult to achieve its security community by 2015 if it cannot mediate to resolve the dispute between Cambodia and Thailand," Chheang Vannarith, executive director of Cambodian Institute of Cooperation and Peace, said in an interview with Xinhua on Saturday.

ASEAN will have communities including economic, security, and socio-cultural ones.

"By 2015, I believe that it can achieve only the economic community and social and cultural community," he said.

However, he said that it depends on ASEAN itself if it will create any new mechanism to resolve dispute or not.

The ASEAN's foreign ministers will hold a meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia on Feb. 22 to discuss the dispute between Cambodia and Thailand.

"Now we wait and see the result of the upcoming meeting," he said."It can be a turning-point for ASEAN if it decides to establish an effective mechanism of dispute resolution for its members."

The dispute between Cambodia and Thailand is the first time that ASEAN meets, so it can be an experiment for ASEAN.

"If ASEAN has no any resolution or measure on this dispute, the ASEAN's security community will be worthless," he said.

Cambodia is expected to ask Thailand to sign a permanent ceasefire under the witness of ASEAN chair or representative during the ASEAN foreign ministers'meeting, and it will also ask ASEAN observers to come to the disputed areas to ensure the permanent cease-fire.

Sok Touch, deputy director general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia's International Relations Institute, said that Cambodia' s suggestions will be failed.

"It will not be successful, I guest. Currently, Thailand increases its military forces in order to put pressure on Cambodia to return to bilateral negotiation table," he said.

"Thai government uses the issue of Preah Vihear temple to treat its internal conflict," he said. "Also, Thai's war against Cambodia is for budget--when there is war, Thai government led by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, will be able to withdraw budget from its national coffer easily and legally."

"Another reason, Abhisit uses the war against Cambodia as his excuse to postpone the election in Thailand," he added.

Cambodia and Thailand have had border conflict just a week after Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple was enlisted as World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008.

The conflict is due to Thai claim of the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the temple, triggering a military build-up along the border, and periodic clashes between Cambodian and Thai soldiers have resulted in the deaths of troops on both sides.

The latest clashes on Feb. 4-7, unleashed a barrage of artillery shells on both sides of the border, had killed and wounded some soldiers and citizens of both sides, and also caused tens of thousands of the two countries'villagers nearby the disputed areas fleeing for safe shelters.

The United Nations Security Council on Monday urged Cambodia and Thailand to display maximum restraint and to establish a permanent ceasefire. It also expressed support for the active efforts of ASEAN in the matter and encouraged the parties to continue to cooperate with the organization.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Source: Xinhua

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