A Royal Cambodian Armed Forces soldier leans against a buttressed portion of Preah Vihear temple during a lull in fighting with Thailand last month.
Monday, 07 March 2011 15:02 Vong Sokheng
Prime Minister Hun Sen has urged Thailand to accept a meeting of the countries’ bilateral General Border Committee in Indonesia in order to solve their ongoing border dispute, which flared up in clashes last month that left at least 10 people dead and dozens wounded.
Speaking to a group of disabled veterans and their families in Kampot province’s Chhouk district, the premier said officials from Indonesia, which currently chairs the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, were working to arrange the meeting.
“Don’t close the door for negotiations and make threats, because this is impossible. We have to go to Jakarta together,” Hun Sen said.
“Cambodia welcomes the Indonesian foreign minister setting the dates for the meeting of the two countries’ defence ministers and chairs of the GBC. Indonesia is the host and will be the referee.”
Indonesia has played a lead role in facilitating negotiations between Thailand and Cambodia in recent weeks.
During a meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers in Jakarta last month, the two countries agreed to accept delegations of unarmed Indonesian observers who will be stationed on either side of the border to monitor the situation. The two sides also agreed to hold talks in a third country, and Indonesian foreign minister Marty Natalegawa has travelled to both Bangkok and Phnom Penh to meet with leaders in relation to the conflict.
The Bangkok Post reported on Friday that Thailand had requested that the upcoming GBC meeting, originally scheduled to be held in Cambodia in April, instead be moved to this month.
“We want the meeting to be held sooner so that we can talk about deployments of troops along the border and cooperation in various fields,” Thai Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon was quoted as saying. The report did not mention the possibility of the meeting being moved to Indonesia.
Var Kimhong, the government’s senior minister in charge of border affairs, said yesterday that Indonesia’s Natalegawa was still waiting for confirmation from the Thai side before scheduling the talks.
“The Cambodian government is already prepared to go to the meeting, but Thailand remains stuck on bilateral negotiations and has yet to confirm, so we need to wait because Thailand is one party in the dispute,” he said.
Tensions have been high along the Thai-Cambodian border since 2008, when Preah Vihear temple was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site for Cambodia. At least seven people had been killed in periodic skirmishes in the area over the past few years prior to the clashes last month.
Countries including the United States and China registered concern following last month’s fighting, and Cambodia and Thailand went before the United Nations Security Council in New York to discuss the dispute before taking the matter to Indonesia and ASEAN.