Tuesday, 15 February 2011

UN Security Council hears Cambodia, Thailand on border dispute

via CAAI


by William M. Reilly

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) -- The UN Security Council on Monday called on Cambodia and Thailand to cool down, arrange a permanent ceasefire and get on with talks over their recent deadly border skirmishes, likened by Bangkok to a family feud.

Military units of the two Southeast Asia neighbors exchanged fire on Feb. 4-7 over a long-running frontier-demarcation disagreement involving an ancient Hindu temple now on the World Heritage list.

At least eight people were killed and scores of others wounded. Tens of thousands of nearby villagers fled the disputed area during the fighting.

Since the confrontation, a tense ceasefire has been observed.

Cambodia asked the Security Council to meet on the conflict over the Temple of Vihear and to call in Thailand for talks. Thailand refers to the disputed holy site as the Temple of Phra Viharn.

The foreign ministers of the two countries were accompanied to the Council session by Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa of Indonesia, chairman of the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

"I feel far more optimistic than I was before, in terms of where we are," Natalegawa told reporters following the meeting.

After hearing from the two countries in closed-door consultations, the panel urged them to display maximum restraint, avoid any action that may aggravate the situation, and establish a permanent ceasefire.

The rotating Council president, Brazilian UN Ambassador Maria Ribeiro Viotti, said Council members expressed their great concern about the recent armed clashes and 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.

Viotti said the panel expressed support for the efforts of ASEAN and encouraged the parties to continue to cooperate with the organization.

"It is with a heavy heart that I have come here today to speak about Thailand and Cambodia, our neighbor and a fellow member of the ASEAN family," Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya of Thailand told the Council in prepared remarks, a copy of which was obtained by Xinhua.

"Two members of the ASEAN family have to come here to talk about their bilateral problem, despite the fact that ASEAN made a decision that such matters should be addressed directly between the parties concerned," he said.

"Like in all parts of the world, relations between two neighboring countries sharing common border are like siblings," Piromya added. "There have been ups and downs, good times and bad times, in our relations. But whenever problem arose, we have always solved them together side by side."

The minister, in meetings with reporters at the UN Headquarters in New York, repeatedly plugged for bilateral talks.

But Phnom Penh had a different view.

"Negotiations bilaterally have failed, therefore we need one other, third, party to have the two parties settle our problem," Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters after the Council's consultations.

In his prepared remarks to the Council, a copy of which also was obtained by Xinhua, he detailed differences going back to the turn of the previous century and the so-called 1908 "Dangrek Map" describing the two nations' common frontier and a 1962 International Court of Justice declaration that the disputed temple was in Cambodian territory.

"Even though there were two de facto agreements on a ceasefire, the current situation, however, remains extremely fragile," the minister told the Council. "Fresh fighting may break out again at any time without forewarning, while heavily-armed Thai soldiers, artilleries and tanks have been positioned along the border posing constant pressure on Cambodia."

He said: "Thailand is emboldened by its larger and sophisticated armaments."

The minister called Thailand's actions earlier in the month " aggression against Cambodia," and accused the Thais of using cluster munitions.

Thailand emphatically denied the accusation about using cluster bombs, a widely banned device that on initial detonation discharges bomb-lets, that scatter. Experience has shown many of the smaller devices fail to explode and later become secondary weapons as deadly as landmines when they finally detonate. Silvery devices, they attract children.

The border between Thailand and Cambodia has never been completely demarcated. Although the International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the temple itself belonged to Cambodia, the row over the 4.6-sq-km territory around the temple has never been resolved.

The foreign minister of the more-developed Thailand said his nation had no need to be an aggressor in Cambodia, a country his nation was helping to develop through investment, a common visa- application scheme and even joint tourism efforts.

Editor: Zhang Xiang

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