By THE NATION
Published on March 4, 2011
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday piled the pressure on Thailand regarding the stationing of observers at the border to monitor a permanent ceasefire in the area adjacent to Preah Vihear Temple.
"I appeal to Indonesia, if Thailand is hesitant about observers, then please send them urgently to the Cambodian side at the disputed border area," Hun Sen said during the celebration of the 13th national cultural day at Phnom Penh's Chaktomuk Hall.
Thailand and Cambodia agreed during an informal meeting of Asean foreign ministers in Jakarta on February 22 to allow Indonesian observers to assess the situation after a border skirmish on February 4 to 7 killed some 10 people including three civilians on both sides.
Indonesia, as chair of the Asean, sent the terms of reference (TOR) related to the observers to Thailand and Cambodia last week.
On Wednesday, the Foreign Ministry's permanent secretary Theerakun Niyom said that Thailand was still studying the TOR and the ministry needed to consult the military on the procedure. He added that Thailand would need time to study the TOR, since Indonesia had not set any deadline for response.
In comparison, Cambodia has already told the Asean chair that it has accepted the TOR. "We took no more than 24 hours to reply, and provided the 14 points for Indonesian observers to follow. We will make further concessions if necessary," Hun Sen was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency. "The observers can extend their terms after 12 months."
Thailand, however, does not seem to have any common ground as far as the TOR is concerned. Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha said earlier that the military would not allow Indonesian observers into the "disputed area" near Preah Vihear. He said Thailand wanted to discuss the TOR with Cambodia at the meeting of the General Border Committee (GBC) before it makes any decisions. The military-run GBC, jointly chaired by defence ministers of Thailand and Cambodia, is scheduled to meet in June.
Hun Sen responded: "If Thailand does not want observers, Cambodia will receive them."
Thailand is showing reluctance because its demand to settle the boundary conflict via bilateral mechanisms has not yet worked, while Cambodia has managed to put the issue on the international forum via the United Nations Security Council and Asean. Hun Sen has insisted his government would not negotiate with Thailand on the border dispute.
"I confirm that if you [Thailand] want to negotiate, you have to ask Indonesia, the Asean chair, to convene a meeting. There will be no bilateral negotiations," he said. "We will only cooperate with Thailand in terms of economics, trade, investment, tourism and so on, but negotiations over the disputed area must be overseen by a third party."
The UN called on the conflicting parties to establish a permanent ceasefire and urged Asean to implement the plan.