Mustaqim Adamrah, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
To the majority of Cambodians, warfare is not an option, even while their government and the Thai government are struggling to end border disputes.
Lita Cheng, a 20-year-old Cambodian woman, said that she and other Cambodians have the same desire — to have peace.
“We had a civil war a long time ago. We just want peace now,” she said Friday.
“There’s also a sensitive problem. Our neighbor wants to take our land. So this issue is very sensitive for Cambodians.”
Likewise, Cambodian Phalla Say said her country had gained peace just recently after the war among the Khmer.
“Now we don’t want to see any more conflicts between Cambodia and Thailand,” said the 28-year old.
Experts say it is timely for ASEAN in the upcoming ASEAN Summit on May 7-8 in Jakarta to consider renewing a dispute settlement mechanism to make it more effective than the “moral advice” that ASEAN is offering now.
“[The ASEAN Summit] is the right time for ASEAN to start thinking of new mechanisms that are more effective and binding in dispute resolution [because] the fact right now is that the desire to use weapons is still quite strong [among member countries], including Thailand,” Pelita Harapan University School of Social and Political Science dean Alexius Jemadu told The Jakarta Post recently.
“Otherwise, the relevance of ASEAN will be questionable to its own people and the international community,” he said.
He said Indonesia’s efforts to mediate the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia had ended embarrassing the current ASEAN chair due to the two parties’ inability to commit to their cease-fire agreement.
Parahyangan University international relations expert Bonggas Adi Chandra agreed, saying a code of conduct in dispute resolution should be included in the ASEAN Political and Security Community Blueprint.
“We need a specific dispute settlement mechanism that any ASEAN chair can conduct [when there’s a dispute between members],” he told the Post.
Current chair of ASEAN and Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa went to Phnom Penh and Bangkok in February for the so-called “shuttle diplomacy” after four days of border fighting
around the Preah Vihear temple that killed at least three Thais and eight Cambodians.
Thailand and Cambodia agreed in an ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting in Jakarta, about three weeks after the February clashes began, that both parties would maintain a cease-fire and would have an Indonesian observer team on both sides.
The agreement, however, seemed to be futile, with Thailand and Cambodia renewing their skirmishes last week around the Ta Krabey and Ta Moan temples. The death toll in the March fighting already hit 16 people from both sides.
Thailand and Cambodia renewed their truce agreement on Thursday, but peace was brief as clashes broke out again on Friday in a disputed zone along the frontier, The Associated Press reported.
Cambodian Col. Suos Sothea said that the Thai army fired artillery shells into Cambodia again Friday and small arms fire crackled anew around the Ta Krabey temple, AP reported.
Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Michael Tene said security issues would be one of the main agendas during the Summit.
But he said he was not sure if the Thailand-Cambodia border disputes would be specifically discussed during or on the sidelines of the Summit.
Bonggas said he doubted that the issues presently harbored between Thailand and Cambodia would be openly discussed by the leaders during the Summit due to ASEAN’s principle of non-interference.