HEAD OF REGIONAL BODY SEEKS ROLE IN CALLING BORDER TRUCE
Thailand and Cambodia should allow the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to help them form a temporary truce and calm tempers, said Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan.
His urgent message came as the two Asean member states traded fire on Friday and early yesterday, with casualties on both sides.
He said the deteriorating situation along the Thai-Cambodian border is undermining confidence in Asean and affecting economic recovery, tourism and investment prospects in the region.
"The situation has escalated into open conflict, which will affect our economic development, confidence in our region, tourism and prospects for foreign investment, which have just started picking up in light of the global economic recovery," said Mr Surin, former foreign minister.
"I am deeply concerned about the serious situation on the border between Thailand and Cambodia. This violent conflict must be brought under control and returned to the negotiating table as soon as possible."
The violence started with gunfire and artillery duels mid-afternoon on Friday near the long-disputed site of the ancient Preah Vihear temple.
While the International Court of Justice decided in Cambodia's favour in 1962, sovereignty over the areas adjacent to the temple have remained disputed.
"I have been in touch with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong, and the Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, and I have appealed for calm and restraint on both sides," Mr Surin said.
"I have also expressed my fervent desire to see both sides return to the negotiating table as soon as possible." Diplomatic sources reveal that Mr Surin's wishes could materialise soon as Indonesia, the current Asean chair, is stepping up its efforts to help the two sides arrive at a temporary solution. It wants the two sides to resume talks on border demarcation and restoring peace.
"I understand that both sides now welcome some form of mediation by the Asean leadership," said Mr Surin, without elaborating.