Wednesday, 16 February 2011

UN withdraws staff from at least two areas on Thai-Cambodian border

via CAAI

Feb 16, 2011

Phnom Penh - The United Nations has moved six staff out of Koh Kong town near Cambodia's southern border with Thailand after both nations reportedly boosted troop numbers in the area.

UN security officials told staff by email that travel to Koh Kong town, capital of the province of the same name and 8 kilometres from the border, was restricted 'until further notice.'

The UN email, seen by the German Press Agency dpa, said up to 70 per cent of the town's population had left due to tensions on the southern border.

The UN has also evacuated staff from areas near the 11th-century temple of Preah Vihear on the northern border, the site of clashes that have killed at least nine people in the past fortnight.

The UN office in Phnom Penh refused to confirm or deny that any staff had been moved. 'It would be inappropriate to comment on staff security at this stage,' said Douglas Broderick, UN resident coordinator.

On Monday at the United Nations Security Council, both countries' foreign ministers blamed the other for the fighting, the worst conflict between the neighbours in years.

Speaking on his return from New York on Wednesday, Cambodia's Foreign Minister Hor Namhong reiterated that Phnom Penh's objective was to resolve the border dispute using third-party mediation.

Cambodia has said the bilateral approach using the two nations' Joint Border Committee, which was set up in 2000, has failed.

Thailand has insisted on a bilateral solution.

Also Wednesday Cambodia's Foreign Ministry released a statement accusing Thailand of violating the ceasefire near Preah Vihear by firing grenades and mortars for several hours overnight.

It said Cambodian troops had 'exercised utmost restraint' in order not to jeopardize talks scheduled for Jakarta on February 22 under the auspices of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Hor Namhong said he would ask the 10-member ASEAN to send observers to monitor the implementation of a recent ceasefire agreement. The clashes have displaced an estimated 25,000 people.

Bangkok has blamed the UN's cultural body UNESCO for exacerbating the dispute with its 2008 decision to list Preah Vihear temple as a world heritage site despite objections from Thailand.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia, but stopped short of determining the border demarcation in an adjacent 4.6-square-kilometre contested area.


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