By The Nation
Published on March 24, 2011
A meeting between Thailand and Cambodia on boundary affairs in Indonesia next month is in limbo as the Thai military and Foreign Ministry remain deeply divided over the issue.
Meanwhile, the government is struggling to have Parliament pass the documents necessary for the meeting to take place.
Indonesia, as the chair of Asean, called meetings of the Thailand-Cambodia General Border Committee (GBC) and Joint Boundary Committee (JBC) on April 7-8 in Indonesia.
The arrangement was part of a deal to settle the boundary conflict between the two neighbours. The agreement included a plan to dispatch Indonesian observers to the disputed area adjacent to the Hindu temple of Preah Vihear.
Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha set a prerequisite that Thailand would not allow the observation before a discussion between Thailand and Cambodia in the GBC.
However the army chief said the GBC should take place in Cambodia as initially planned, rather than in any third country.
"We have proposed that Cambodia should call the GBC meeting as soon as possible. If Cambodia cannot host the meeting in Cambodia, the meeting should be held in Thailand," Prayuth told reporters.
Co-chaired by defence ministers of the two countries, the GBC is a bilateral mechanism to handle general border affairs, including security arrangements.
Reports have emerged that Prayuth and Defence Minister Prawit will boycott the GBC meeting in Indonesia, though Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongpakdi has claimed such reports are false. The foreign ministry is coordinating over details of the meeting with the military, he said.
The JBC, which takes care of boundary demarcation, has its own problems.
Parliament has not yet passed three documents to enable it to have the next meeting.
The House is scheduled to consider the JBC's meeting minutes on Friday, according to House Speaker Chai Chidchob. The meeting will go on as scheduled, although the nationalist People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) has threatened to surround the Parliament compound on the day, he said.
The yellow-shirted PAD has vowed to block consideration of the JBC's documents as it does not want the JBC to resume its negotiations on boundary demarcation.
Thailand will lose territory, notably around Preah Vihear, if the JBC negotiates with Cambodia based on the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed in 2000, the PAD says.
They are concerned that the MOU recognised a French-made 1:200000 map of the area, which indicates Preah Vihear and its vicinity are under sovereignty of Cambodia.
Based on the map, the International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear is situated in territory under sovereignty of Cambodia.
Thailand complied with the ruling but returned only the ruined temple to Cambodia, claiming the surrounding area belongs to Thailand.
The PAD wants the government to scrap the MOU and use military force to kick Cambodians out of the disputed area.
Thai and Cambodian troops clashed from February 4-7 near the Hindu temple. The border skirmish claimed at least 10 lives, including three civilians on both sides.
Cambodia subsequently succeeded in bringing the issue to the attention of the United Nations Security Council and Asean.