Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Thailand, Cambodia defy UN plea for peace


via CAAI

By Boonradom Chitradon, AAP
February 15, 2011

Thailand and Cambodia show no sign of narrowing their differences on how to end a deadly border rift, with Bangkok reporting a new skirmish just hours after a UN appeal for a lasting ceasefire.

Thailand said one of its soldiers was wounded in the latest flare-up at the frontier early on Tuesday, but described the incident as relatively minor.

The two armies accused each other of using hand grenades.

Bangkok urged its neighbour to return to the table for bilateral talks to settle the row centred on a 900-year-old temple, which erupted into four days of armed clashes earlier this month, leaving at least 10 people dead.

"When the international community thinks the problem should be solved through negotiation, Cambodia has no reason to refuse. They should return to the talks," Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said.

But Phnom Penh rejected the call, insisting on the need for third-party mediation.

"Bilateral negotiations do not work," said Cambodian foreign ministry spokesman Koy Kuong, who described a UN Security Council meeting on the matter as "a success" for his country.

"Cambodia's stance is to resolve the dispute peacefully," he said, but "all negotiations must always have the participation of a third party".

He added: "What Cambodia wants is a permanent ceasefire. This is the most important issue."

The two sides are at odds over a border area surrounding the Preah Vihear temple, an 11th century clifftop ruin that belongs to Cambodia but whose designation as a World Heritage site sparked the ire of Thai nationalists.

The two Southeast Asian neighbours blame each other for the crisis.

In New York, UN Security Council members called for "maximum restraint" in the standoff, council president Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti of Brazil said after a closed-door meeting attended by the foreign ministers of the two countries as well as Indonesia, which has tried to mediate in the dispute.

"Members of the Security Council urge the parties to establish a permanent ceasefire and to implement it fully," she said.

But just hours later the two countries' armies were trading accusations again about the latest incident.

"Cambodia threw hand grenades into Thailand at around 5am this morning (0900 AEDT)," Thai army spokesman Colonel Sunsern Kaewkumnerd said on Tuesday. "One Thai soldier was injured."

A Cambodian military commander near the border who did not wish to be named denied the charge, saying Thai troops regularly threw grenades but Cambodian forces did not retaliate.

Viotti said the UN Security Council supported the Indonesian mediation efforts.

"The idea is to work in synergy with the regional efforts - and right now regional efforts are in full force - and resolve the situation peacefully and through effective dialogue," she said.

While Cambodia won support for its calls for outside mediation to help end the standoff, the council did not endorse its request to deploy UN peacekeepers into the contested area.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong accused Thailand of using internationally outlawed bombs and munitions in the conflict.

"We deny all of that and we did not shoot first. It was a response," his Thai counterpart Kasit Piromya said.

The Thai minister said there was no need for UN peacekeepers and the option had not been discussed in the Security Council session.

Kasit said he had not met his Cambodian counterpart one-on-one in New York, but there would be an opportunity to do so during a meeting of foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Jakarta on February 22.

He also told Thai television that he had proposed a meeting on February 27 of a joint commission set up previously with Cambodia to try to resolve the border dispute.

"We are ready to talk any day. It depends on Cambodia's decision," he said.

Thailand has laid the blame for the crisis on UNESCO's decision to declare the temple ruins a World Heritage site even though the land around it is disputed.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia but both countries claim ownership of a 4.6 square-kilometre surrounding area.

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