By The NationJakarta
Published on April 27, 2011
Indonesian foreign minister tells The Nation Editor-in-Chief Suthichai Yoon about the urgent need to get both sides to calm down and start discussing a ceasefire
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told The Nation yesterday that "the sooner, the better" if Thai Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva and his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen met and put an end to the ongoing military confrontation on the border.
He said it would be far too late if both sides waited until the next Asean Summit is held. The grouping is scheduled to meet in Jakarta on May 7-8. "I don't want to wait that long," he said.
Abhisit said Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan would meet his Cambodian counterpart Tea Banh in Phnom Penh today to discuss a possible ceasefire, but he was non-committal about the outcome. "It depends on Cambodia, which triggered the conflict. If they did nothing, there would be no problem," he said.
Also, Tea Banh yesterday even-ing called Kom Chad Luek, The Nation's sister newspaper, to express his willingness to end the fighting with Thailand.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya is due to arrive in the Indonesian capital tomorrow for talks with Natalegawa.
Indonesia is the current chair of Asean.
"Cambodia's Deputy Premier Hor Nam Hong is travelling. I understand he is in Paris. I am trying to schedule a meeting with him as well," Natalegawa said.
He added that he was "keen" to talk to Kasit and Hor Nam Hong and get a ceasefire re-established so that observer teams could be deployed along the Thai-Cambodian border. This would also encourage the resumption of diplomatic negotiations.
The Indonesian foreign minister said he was planning to visit Phnom Penh and Bangkok yesterday after shooting erupted on the border again for a third day. "But I changed my mind after finding the timing not propitious," he said.
When asked what he would do now that the two nations had broken the ceasefire pact, he said, his mission is to be on the "relentless pursuit of a diplomatic solution".
"As I have said on several occasions, we must be aggressive in pursuing peace, notwithstanding the present difficulties. The only viable solution is a solution through peaceful means despite the fact that we have had very difficult four or five days of military incidents. We hope the two sides can be encouraged to return to the negotiations table," Natalegawa said.
As for Thailand's reluctance to stationing of Indonesian observers on the border, he said: "It's still in the process and under discussion on both sides. As I understand it, Thailand has agreed to the idea of having observers. There are now some so-called technical issues to address. It's better to be done sooner rather than later - precisely to avoid confusion over who has done what and when."
He explained that having observers on the ground would help avoid confusion. "Now, it's even more urgent than before. It was urgent two months ago. It's even more urgent now because we have allowed time to pass. The longer we allow the situation to continue, the more casualties the two countries will suffer and there will be more disruption to the civilian populations," Natalegawa said.
As to whether the issue should return to the UN, he said: "It really depends on our capacity to solve the problem in the region. I don't want to suggest as if there is a clear difference between what is regional and global because they are mutually reinforcing to create conditions that are conducive to bilateral solutions. So, what is bilateral, regional and global are actually supporting one another."
Informed sources said the Thai side had proposed 15 points - all outside the 4.6 square-kilometre area under dispute - where the Indonesian observers could be stationed. They must be unarmed and not in military uniform. Negotiations have brought the sites down to four.
"The Cambodian side has told me that they don't mind where the Indonesian observers are assigned. They say the observers could even be in full military gear," the Indonesian foreign minister said.
Asked about speculation on the Thai side that Cambodia was trying to take the issue back to the UN, Natalegawa said: "It's already in the UN. It's not a question of bringing it back to the UN. The genie is out of the bottle."