Friday, 25 March 2011

Indonesia awaits approval on Thai-Cambodia mission

A view of the Preah Vihear temple on the disputed Cambodian-Thai border

Posted: 24 March 2011

JAKARTA: Indonesia said Thursday that an ASEAN plan to send Indonesian military observers to the disputed Thai-Cambodia border had stalled as it awaited approvals from Bangkok and Phnom Penh.

At a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Jakarta last month, Thailand and Cambodia agreed to accept Indonesian observers to a flashpoint section of the border where heavy fighting erupted in February.

ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan hailed the agreement as a "historic day" for the 10-nation block, but more than a month later the observer teams remain in Jakarta and Thailand's military now says they are not needed.

"We're still waiting for further approvals from both countries before we can proceed to go to the area," Indonesian foreign ministry spokeswoman Kusuma Habir told AFP.

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 approvals as soon as possible," Habir said.

Thailand's army chief, General Prayut Chan-O-Cha, said Wednesday the observers were not wanted in the disputed area near an 11th-century temple because it was too dangerous and they would only complicate matters.

Prayut said the Thai defence ministry, armed forces and military commanders rejected the idea of outside monitors, but conceded it was up to the government to decide.

A Thai government spokesman denied however that there had been any change in Bangkok's position, and said a joint border committee would be convened to iron out the details of the observers' mission.

Thailand and Cambodia have each accused the other of starting the border clashes, which erupted around the Hindu temple of Preah Vihear.


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