By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
Published on May 9, 2011
PM Abhisit proposed discussing the troop withdrawal in a military-run General Border Committee (GBC) meeting, but Cambodia's Hun Sen disagreed, saying the GBC meet would not be convened before a Thai letter accepting the Indonesian observers' terms of reference had been submitted.
A tripartite meeting called by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to setฌtle the border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia yesterday made no progress as the conflicting countries remained extremely indifฌferent.
Indonesia's plan to dispatch its observers to the borderdisputed area adjacent to the Preah Vihear temple has not materialised as Thailand insists it would not sign a letter of acceptance to the Indonesian observers' term of reference (TOR) unless Cambodia withdrew its troops from the Hindu temple and its vicinฌity.
Cambodia rejected the condition- saying it would not withdraw troops from its own territory.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva proposed to discuss the troop withฌdrawal in a militaryrun General Border Committee (GBC) meeting - but his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen disagreed, saying the GBC meetฌing would not be convened before the Thai letter of acceptance to the TOR was formally submitted to Indonesia.
"Once Thailand has signed the TOR, the meeting of the GBC could start immediately," Hun Sen told a press conference on the sideline of the Asean summit.
Seeking a solution
As the issue came into deadlock, Indonesian President Yudhoyono, who is facilitating the peace process, recommended foreign ministers of the two nations stay one more day in Jakarta to work with Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa and seek a solution. The ministers are in Indonesia for an Asean summit meeting which ended yesterday.
The border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia came to the attention of Asean following a major clash in February at the Preah Vihear temple. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC), as requested by Phnom Penh, entrusted Asean to implement a permanent ceasefire.
The armed conflict extended to other areas near Ta Mouan Thom and Ta Kwai temple in Surin in late April. The latest clash which caused more casualties prompted Cambodia's move to have the International Court of Justice (ICJ) interpret the scope and meaning of the 1962 ruling on the Preah Vihear case.
Prime Minister Abhisit charged Cambodia with igniting the military conflict to internationalise the issue, although the two countries already had many bilateral mechanisms, including the GBC, to settle the conflict.
Abhisit rejected Cambodian preฌmier Hun Sen's accusation of being an obstacle to a peaceful solution, saying it was the government in Phnom Penh that had made the issue more complicated, calling for differฌent solutions to the problem.
Cambodia called for a third party from international organisations to intervene in the Preah Vihear case but was willing to settle the conflict in areas of Ta Mouan bilaterally.
'Two areas, two approaches'
"Prime Minister Hun Sen reiterฌated two areas needing different approaches which I find hard to understand as people along the borฌder areas need equal attention and long lasting solutions," Abhisit said in another press conference.
Thailand's position was consisฌtent in having a longlasting soluฌtion and prevent further conflict, he said.
Hun Sen defended his idea that a third party was needed for the Preah Vihear, as the issue had already been submitted to the UN and the Asean had a UN mandate to participate.
"We necessarily have to respect the role of Asean, we cannot talk together secretly or quietly, he said.
"The acceptance of Indonesian observers had been agreed in the meeting of Asean foreign ministers in February and the TOR has been modified seven times already - and there were no demands for troop withdrawal and no demands for a GBC meeting before the signing of the letter of acceptance," he said.
Abhisit argued that the message of troop withdrawal had been conฌveyed to Indonesia at the beginning, not a new condition, since the presฌence of troops at the temple and in its vicinity is against the spirit of the Hague convention and world herฌitage guidelines.
"Cambodia cannot deny this conฌdition as its request to ICJ also wantฌed to have the withdrawal of Thai troops from the temple. So I find it hard to understand why Cambodia cannot accept there is a need for disฌcussion for both sides to talk about troop withdrawal from sensitive areas," Abhisit said.