No sense of conflict:: In this photo taken on Saturday, a Cambodian woman prepares palm sugar at a Chea Klang village in Prey Veng province about 65 kilometers southeast of Phnom Penh. AP/Heng Sinith
Mustaqim Adamrah, The Jakarta Post,
Jakarta Mon, 03/28/2011
Indonesia is confident that Thailand and Cambodia remain committed to settling their border dispute despite reports that the Thai military is opposed to a proposal to have a team of Indonesian military experts observe the disputed area.
“To date there has been no formal communication from either government that suggests a change of position,” Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told The Jakarta Post over the weekend.
“On the contrary, the consent — both written as well as informal communication — that we received is of continuous hope and expectation that Indonesia, current chair of ASEAN, will continue to play its good role.”
At an Indonesian-brokered ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting in Jakarta on Feb. 22, Thailand and Cambodia agreed to accept a team of Indonesian observers to the disputed border area adjacent to the ancient Khmer Hindu temple of Preah Vihear, where heavy fighting erupted in February.
Indonesia also called for meetings of the Thai-Cambodia General Border Committee (GBC) and Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Committee (JBC) on March 24 and 25, but later postponed them to April 7 and 8 in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia.
But more than a month later the observer team remains in Jakarta and Thailand’s military now says it is not needed.
Indonesia said Thursday that ASEAN’s plan to send Indonesian military observers to the disputed Thai-Cambodia border had stalled, as it was awaiting approval from Bangkok and Phnom Penh, particularly concerning the exact coordinates where the observers should visit.
“While the terms of reference of the team have yet to be finalized and while the observation team has yet to be deployed, we must not lose sight of the big picture: Through our engagement, the situation at the border which before saw exchanges of gunfire, exchanges of artillery, bombings, displaced persons, now has become more stable,” he said.
“After all, it is not Indonesia asking to be there. They are the ones who have asked us to be there.”
He also said it was up to Thailand and Cambodia to preserve the border negotiations and approve the dispatch of the observation team.
“We have no particular preference; where the meeting should take place, whether it’s in Phnom Penh, whether it’s in Thailand; whether it involves Indonesia or does not involve Indonesia. That’s for the parties to decide,” Marty said.
Thai army chief Gen. Prayut Chan-O-Cha said last Wednesday the observers were not wanted in the disputed area, which is near an 11th-century temple, because it was too dangerous and they would only complicate matters, Thai media reported last Thursday.
Thai media also reported that Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban had voiced support Thursday for Gen. Prayuth’s opinion that no third party should be involved in the GBC meeting as it was a bilateral issue.
He said Indonesia, in its capacity as ASEAN chair, or any other country, should not meddle in the border committee meeting.
Gen. Prayuth said he and other Thai military commanders intended not to attend the GBC meeting in Bogor proposed by Indonesia and agreed to by Cambodia.
“This written statement comes from certain individuals in Thailand — something that’s interesting but does not really affect our position,” Marty said.