Indonesia awaits call to monitor flashpoint
Newspaper section: News
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations' plan to send Indonesian military observers to the disputed Thai-Cambodia border has stalled as it awaits approval from Bangkok and Phnom Penh, according to Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Kusuma Habir.
At the Asean meeting in Jakarta last month, Thailand and Cambodia agreed to accept Indonesian observers to the flashpoint section of the border where heavy fighting erupted in February.
But more than a month later the observer teams remain in Jakarta.
"We're still waiting for further approval from both countries before we can proceed to the area," Ms Habir said.
The observers had not received their operating orders and did not even know where they would be posted or for how long, she added.
"We hope that we will receive their approval as soon as possible," Ms Habir said.
The Indonesian foreign affairs spokeswoman's remarks came after the Thai army asserted earlier this week that Thailand does not need foreign troops to be deployed.
Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban yesterday supported the army's stance of opposing Indonesian observers being deployed to the disputed area.
Mr Suthep, who is in charge of national security, said Thailand has to try its best to protect its sovereignty.
But Mr Suthep said the demand that foreign soldiers should not be deployed to the disputed area before the Joint Border Committee (JBC) talks was not the right move.
The talks could be held anywhere and Indonesia, as a third country, could send representatives to observe the meeting.
Earlier, army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said he wanted the JBC to take place without the participation of a third country. Moreover, the JBC meeting should be held either in Cambodia or Thailand.
Mr Suthep added there has been no progress in the JBC talks because parliament has not improved the minutes of earlier JBC meetings.
The government will ask the parliament to approve the JBC minutes today, said the deputy prime minister.
"If our parliament doesn't approve the minutes, Cambodia might feel another JBC meeting is useless," said Mr Suthep.
"However, we want the discussion on border demarcation between the two countries to continue."
Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon also reaffirmed yesterday that the next General Border Committee (GBC) meeting must be between Thailand and Cambodia only, without a third party present.
Gen Prawit said he had personally discussed the matter with Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh.
Moreover, the Thai Defence Ministry has sent a letter to the Cambodian counterpart, asking it to call a GBC meeting as soon as possible so that the military leaders of the two countries could discuss border problems together.
The GBC is co-chaired by the defence ministers of Thailand and Cambodia. It is separated from the JBC under the Foreign Ministry.
He said Cambodia was supposed to host the eighth GBC meeting this year. But if Cambodia was not ready, Thailand would be willing to host it.
At the next GBC meeting the two sides would discuss problems in implementing agreements over the disputed border area, security along the border, illegal labour, drug smuggling and other crime, he said.
Col Thanathip Sawangsaeng, the defence spokesman, said Gen Prawit told the Defence Council meeting yesterday that the GBC must be held in either Thailand or Cambodia only.
"However, there would be no problems if Indonesia wants to come as a listener," he quoted Gen Prawit as saying.
The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) yesterday distributed about 100,000 leaflets to people in downtown Bangkok to inform them of what it said were the negative consequences if parliament endorses the three JBC minutes.
The PAD earlier planned to rally in front of parliament today when the House of Representatives reviews the JBC minutes but it has changed its mind.