Monday, 14 February 2011

UN should get Cambodia to hold bilateral talks: Abhisit

via CAAI

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee

The Nation
Published on February 14, 2011

United Nations likely to ask Asean to mediate in border row between two countries: diplomatic sources

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva expected the meeting of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in New York today could convince Cambodia to get back to bilateral channel with Thailand to settle border conflict at the areas adjacent to the Preah Vihear.

"The way to solve (border) problem should be based on bilateral negotiation, rather than bringing other third party to get involved in this matter," Abhisit said in his weekly television program yesterday.

The UNSC agreed with request from Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to convene an urgent meeting on the border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia but it remained unclear what would be an outcome of the meeting. Diplomatic sources said it was possible that the UN would throw the issue to regional forum Asean, whose current chair and Indonesia Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa was also at the UN meeting.

Hun Sen requested the UN forces to create buffer zone at the Preah Vihear's vicinity to ensure peace for the world heritage inscribed 900 years old temple.

Abhisit said Thai delegation to the UN meeting led by Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya would explain to the 15 member body that it was Cambodia who ignited the military clash at the border which claimed at least eight of lives including a Thai civilian on February 4-7.

"It is not true as Cambodia claimed that we are the invader," he said. "The call for the third party or the UN peacekeeping forces is not relevant."

Thailand's real intention is to have the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) to suspend the Preah Viehar's management plan proposed by Cambodia until the two countries could settle the boundary conflict.

Abhisit said he had evidence to prove that Cambodia used the world heritage for military purpose during the clash with Thailand.

Abhisit also rejected Cambodia's call for demilitarisation at the Preah Vihear in order to move forward the process of world heritage inscription. Thailand could not agree with any idea to make peace for the benefit of word heritage as long as the border dispute was not settled, he said.

Thailand and Cambodia have a joint boundary committee (JBC) and a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed since 2000 to handle land boundary demarcation.

However the JBC has not worked properly for a period of time since its previous meeting in April 2009 as Thai parliament has not yet approved its minutes of three previous meetings to give nod to the body to go ahead the survey and demarcation tasks.

Having JBC to settle the boundary conflict with Cambodia is an uphill task for Abhisit's government as nationalists protesting on streets and working in the parliament would not allow the government to implement the 2000 MOU as they feared Thailand could lose territory to Cambodia.

Abhisit-once friendly People's Alliance for Democracy, which has been camping near Prime Minister Office since last month, wanted the government to scrap the MOU and used armed forces to remove Cambodian people, troops and property out of the disputed area.

Cambodia's JBC chief Var Kimhong rejected a Thai proposal to call a JBC meeting later this month saying the bilateral mechanism cannot resolve the issue.

Meanwhile, Thailand's JBC chief Asda Jayanama did not focus on boundary work but was busy with lobbying the Unesco in Paris to have the UN cultural body stayed away from the Preah Vihear.

As the bilateral mechanism was difficult to work, many multilateral forums stayed open for the issue of boundary conflict between the two countries. After the UNSC, the Asean would open a meeting in Jakarta on February 22 over the boundary conflict of the two members, Thailand and Cambodia. Abhisit said he would send his foreign minister Kasit to attend the meeting in Jakarta.

The Hindu temple of Preah Vihear has been sitting at the core conflict between Thailand and Cambodia since last century. It ignited military clashes over the past years since Phnom Penh managed to list it as a world heritage site in 2008 with Thailand's disagreement.

The four-day border skirmish early this month left local residents in Si Sa Ket province in fear. Many villagers were in panic as sound of loud explosion took place in border area late Saturday night. Hundreds of them rushed to seek refuge in down town of Kanthalalak district early morning yesterday before going back home around mid day when authority informed there was no more clash in the border area.

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