Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Thai FM: 'Ball in Cambodian court' on bilateral talks, permanent ceasefire

via CAAI

BANGKOK, Feb 15 - Thailand is ready to hold bilateral talks to settle the Thai-Cambodian border dispute and to sign a ceasefire agreement but it depends on the Cambodian decision on its commitment to the United Nations, Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said on Tuesday.

Interviewed by telephone on state-run television NBT after a meeting of the 15-member United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Thai-Cambodia border clash near Preah Vihear temple that all UNSC members wanted to see Thailand and Cambodia hold bilateral talks while the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in which Thailand and Cambodia are members to be a mentor.

He said the ASEAN foreign ministers are scheduled to meet in Jakarta, Indonesia on Feb 22.

Thailand would inform the meeting that Thailand and Cambodia have bilateral talks framwork including the 2000 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and the Joint Boundary Commission (JBC).

Thailand proposed hosting the JBC on Feb 27 and it is up to Cambodia's decision whether to attend the meeting or not, he said.

"Thailand has proposed to Cambodia for the next joint border committee to be held at the end of this month. I hope that the invitation would be accepted to demonstrate to the world our commitment to the international community that the bilateral negotiation must go on to bring about [resolution], I think, not only of the border issue, but overall peace and security," Mr Kasit told reporters after the Security Council meeting.

As for the permanent ceasefire recommended by the Security Council, Mr Kasit said on state television that it could be possible with talks between Thai and Cambodian defence ministers. Thailand has clearly stated that it wants peace and expressed a sincere desire to hold talks but it depended on Cambodia's decision.

Thailand also proposed to delay the management plan for Preah Vihear temple as it was considered a flash point that could ignite military clashes until the border demarcation is completed.

The council on Monday expressed "grave concern" at recent border clashes between Thailand and Cambodia between Feb 4-7 and called on the two sides to establish a permanent ceasefire and settle the dispute peacefully.

The council gave strong backing to the efforts of the 10-member ASEAN to help resolve the conflict in the disputed border region surrounding Preah Vihear temple, a protected UN World Heritage site.

Council president Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti of Brazil made the call after a closed-door session with Thai Foreign Minister Kasit, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa in his capacity as the current chair of ASEAN.

"The members of the Security Council called on the two sides to display maximum restraint and avoid any action that may aggravate the situation. The members of the Security Council further urged the parties to establish a permanent ceasefire and to implement it fully and resolve the situation peacefully and through effective dialogue," she said at the press briefing after the meeting.

Thailand and Cambodia blame each other for recent clashes near the ancient Preah Vihear temple that killed at least three Thais and eight Cambodians.

Cambodia had asked the council for an emergency meeting on the issue. Council members initially resisted allowing the dispute to come to New York but eventually agreed to Monday's meeting.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the 11th century Preah Vihear temple belongs to Phnom Penh. UNESCO named it a World Heritage site in 2008 after Cambodia had applied for the status. The country submitted a management plan for the temple to UNESCO’s World Heritage Commission in 2010, which deferred a decision until this year. (MCOT online news, agencies)

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