Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Foreign ministers agree on observers


via CAAI

'Package solution' allows deployment to border

Published: 10/05/2011 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News

JAKARTA : The foreign ministers of Cambodia and Thailand have agreed on a deal via a so-called "package solution" to allow the deployment of Indonesian monitors to their disputed border area.

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong met yesterday to try to iron out their differences after the two countries' prime ministers Abhisit Vejjajiva and Hun Sen failed to reach an agreement during talks at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit on Sunday.

"The achievement this afternoon exceeded my expectations," said Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa in the wake of the talks that he mediated.

"I'm not underestimating the scale of the problem, but they have overcome their mutually exclusive demands," he said.

Hor Namhong said Cambodia and Thailand had agreed to a "package solution" on sending observers to the disputed area, the Kyodo News agency reported.

He said the solution was to combine six points in one, that is, both sides would have to first exchange letters of acceptance on the terms of reference for the Indonesian Observer Team (IOT), and at the same time announce the dates of the meetings of the General Border Committee (GBC) and the Joint Border Commission (JBC) of the two countries.

Points three and four are to send a survey team to the disputed area and convene meetings of the GBC and JBC with five days, he said.

Points five and six are to send the full assignment of the IOT and follow up on the results of GBC and JBC meetings within 10 days.

Indonesia, this year's Asean chairman, has tried to facilitate talks over the two countries' joint claims to the 4.6-square-kilometre land plot adjacent to the Preah Vihear temple.

The two sides had signed up to Indonesia's proposal to send observers to monitor a ceasefire on their common border on Feb 22 at the Asean Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Jakarta, but the deployment was delayed because Bangkok demanded that Cambodian troops and civilians withdraw from the area around the temple site first.

The Cambodian side, meanwhile, had insisted that the monitoring team be deployed before any negotiations on troop withdrawal could resume under the GBC.

Under the compromise, the two foreign ministers agreed that Thailand's formal approval for the deployment of the Indonesian monitoring team would be made on the same date as the announcement of the committee's next meeting, Mr Marty said.

Yesterday's agreement must still be approved by both countries' leaders, however.

In Bangkok, Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said he agreed with Prime Minister Abhisit's demand that Cambodia withdraw its troops from the disputed area before Indonesia sends its observers there.

He said a GBC meeting should be held first to explore ways of enabling Thai and Cambodian troops to stay in place before the terms of reference are signed to deploy the observers.

Gen Prawit will attend the Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting in Indonesia on May 18-21.

He is expected to discuss with Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh preparations for the 8th GBC meeting, a military source said.

Meanwhile, Malaysia yesterday blamed Thailand for renewed clashes on the Thai-Cambodian border, saying a solution was being delayed as Thailand was demanding that Cambodia first pull troops out of the temple area before letting observers in.

"An agreement had been agreed upon. [Thailand] should adhere to it, I wouldn't want to say lacking in faith ... [but] they did not adhere to the agreement," Malaysian deputy foreign minister Richard Riot Jaem was quoted by AFP as saying.

"Thailand refused and that's why the skirmish came again," said Mr Riot, who attended the Asean meeting.

Acting government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said Mr Riot's remarks contradicted what Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said at the Asean summit to support the two countries in solving the border problem bilaterally.Meanwhile, the border area in Surin province enjoyed its seventh day free of gunfire yesterday but soldiers on both sides were still confronting each other from Ta Kwai temple in tambon Bak Dai to Ta Muen Thom temple in tambon Ta Miang of Phanom Dong Rak district.

The Chong Jom border pass opened yesterday and over 80% of Thai and Cambodian vendors reopened their stalls at a local market near the border pass on the Thai side.

There were more Cambodian buyers than Thais at the market and they stocked up on piles of consumer products for their customers.

Local people want both governments to negotiate and withdraw their soldiers from the border as soon as possible because their confrontation increases the possibility of clashing.

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