Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Cambodia proposes talks with Thailand in early May

Cambodian soldiers inspect a multi-rocket launcher near the Cambodian-Thai border in Oddar Meanchey province, Cambodia, 26 April 2011. Border clashes between Thai and Cambodian troops after four days of fighting killed and injured soldiers on both sides and forced thousands of civilians to evacuate their villages near two disputed temples. Both sides blame the other for instigating the fighting. EPA/MAK REMISSA

via CAAI

Bangkok/Phnom Penh - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen proposed on Wednesday that he and Thai Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva meet at a regional summit in early May to discuss their border conflict.

Six days of fighting between the two nations have left at least 13 soldiers and one Thai civilian dead, and about 60 people wounded on both sides.

Cambodia said the border was quiet Wednesday afternoon.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said Hun Sen proposed the meeting at the Association of South-East Asian Nations' (ASEAN) summit in Jakarta, scheduled for May 7-8.

'It would be direct talks between (him and Abhisit),' he said.

There was no official response from Thailand concerning Hen Sun's proposal that the prime ministers talk at ASEAN, but Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thingphakdi suggested earlier Wednesday they would like to solve the conflict before the regional summit.

Earlier Wednesday, Phnom Penh condemned Bangkok's threat to use military action to force Cambodian troops from areas that Thailand considers in dispute.

Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said officials considered Thailand's decision 'tantamount to a declaration of war against Cambodia.'

A Thai government spokesman said Tuesday that the cabinet had passed a three-part resolution that focused on military retaliation against claimed Cambodian incursions, diplomatic efforts to arrange bilateral talks, and reviewing all cooperation with Cambodia.

Koy Kuong said the part relating to military action was an unacceptable threat.

On Wednesday, Thailand confirmed it had pulled out of ceasefire talks scheduled for Phnom Penh. Thai army spokesman Colonel Sansern Keowkamnerd said the decision was made after Cambodian media reported that Thailand had only agreed to the talks because it was losing.

But Cambodian spokesman Phay Siphan dismissed that as 'just a cover-up,' and said only one article on a Cambodian website had suggested Thailand was losing the border clashes.

'It was not a TV commentary or on the radio - just one website,' said Phay Siphan. 'And why should the Thai minister of defence mind that much about the media? He should not be affected by the media.'

Indonesia has tried to mediate, and proposed putting observers along the contested border. However that failed Monday when Thailand objected.

On Tuesday, a Thai government spokesman said Bangkok would agree to border monitors, provided Cambodia pulled its troops out of Preah Vihear temple, near another disputed border area. The temple was awarded to Cambodia by an international court in 1962.

Phay Siphan said Wednesday that condition was unacceptable.

'They cannot order us to pull out of our land. It is de jure and de facto Cambodia,' he said.

Each side has blamed the other for the fighting, which started on Friday along Cambodia's northwest border near two temples known as Ta Krabei and Ta Moan.

Cambodia said Wednesday that more than 31,000 of its citizens had fled the border region, while Thailand said a similar number of its civilians had been evacuated from their villages.

Thailand has blamed UNESCO for escalating the tensions with its decision in 2008 to list the 11th-century temple of Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site, despite Thai claims that a 4.6-square-kilometre area near the temple is still the subject of a five-decade border demarcation dispute.

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