By Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 15:05:00 05/08/2011
JAKARTA, Indonesia—President Aquino offered the country's top tourist destinations as a venue for talks between quarreling Thailand and Cambodia in a bid to resolve the border dispute between the two other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
In jest, Mr. Aquino said he even offered to make coffee for the talks just so there'd be calm between the two sides. He cited the importance for the Asean as a bloc in the global community for Thailand and Cambodia to resolve their conflict.
In an informal banter on Saturday night with reporters covering his working visit here, Mr. Aquino indicated that he somehow played go-between for the two leaders, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“I was able to talk with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and he said, 'Perhaps, you can talk to Prime Minister Hun Sen',” President Aquino said of his exchange with the Thai leader on the sidelines of the 18th Asean Summit in this city.
Mr. Aquino said that he approached Hun Sen of the Philippines' willingness to help resolve the issues between the two sides.
“I told him, 'Mr. Prime Minister, we're really interested in solving this problem. And all you have to do is tell us how we can help. If by not meddling, we're helping then we will do so. But if you want us to provide a venue, we'll give you the best resort there is in the Philippines,” President Aquino said.
“I'll go to the extent of making you coffee so we can be calm,” he added.
With the attainment of an Asean Community by 2015 as one of the agenda during the summit, President Aquino said a Thailand-Cambodia border resolution has become important for the group.
He indicated that it would be best for the 10 Asean countries to engage the global community as one bloc rather than deal with nations outside the region individually.
President Aquino indicated that it would be difficult for the Asean members to move to the world stage as one if two of its major players were at odds with each other over a territorial issue.
“We can be a mediator. We can be an observer. Just tell us how we can be of assistance to bring your confidence levels up so that you can talk,” President Aquino recalled telling Hun Sen.
And what did Hun Sen say?
“That's the painful part. He didn't say anything. He just smiled as if to say, 'Thank you. We'll think about it,” President Aquino said.