Thursday, 5 May 2011

Trust building needed to solve Thai-Cambodian border dispute

via CAAI

Jakarta, May 5 (ANTARA) - The border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia has escalated over the last couple of months and no concrete solution is in sight so far despite mediation efforts by Indonesia as the current ASEAN Chair.

The last time Cambodia and Thailand sit together with Indonesia as the facilitator was in the Joint Border Committee(JBC) Meeting in Bogor, West Java, on April 7-8, 2011, but, the meeting did not yield any significant result.

The matter was so complexed that it could not be solved in just one meeting, Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa said in Bogor, following the meeting on April 8.

"The Bogor meeting on Thursday and Friday was followed by an unofficial meeting on the next day between Indonesia, Cambodian Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong and Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, as a part of diplomatic resolving option effort," Marty said.

In the upcoming 18th ASEAN Summit in Jakarta on May 7-8, the border conflict is most likely to be discussed.

Since the past years Indonesia and other members of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) have tried to support both Thailand and Cambodia to solve their border problem through peaceful negotiations.

The relations between Cambodia and Thailand have been strained since the 900-year-old temple Preah Vihear located in both countries` border was granted UN World Heritage status in July 2008.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear itself belonged to Cambodia, although its main entrance lies in Thailand and the 4.6-square-kilometer (1.8-square-mile) area around the temple is claimed by both sides.

The previous border disputes between the two ASEAN member states had erupted into violence in October 2008 and April 2009, as troops from both nations exchanged fire.

In early February 2011, when Indonesia`s ASEAN Chairmanship was just two month old, Cambodia and Thailand had again traded heavy weapons fire near the temple area.

Following the Feb. 4-7 clashes, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, as the ASEAN chairman, decided to send Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa to Cambodia (On Feb. 7) and Thailand (on Feb. 8) to meet his counterparts.

"This year Indonesia as the chairman of ASEAN has a moral responsibility to become part of the solution (of the Cambodia-Thailand conflict)," President Yudhoyono said at his office in Jakarta on February 7.

The clashes and the strong presence of both countries` military in the disputed border area, had prompted ASEAN foreign ministers to hold an informal meeting in Jakarta on February 22, 2011.

In the urgent meeting, Indonesia as the ASEAN Chair, had been requested to send observers to monitor a ceasefire in the affected areas of both sides` border.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has also taken on the issue as an urgent matter and supported Indonesia`s peace facilitator role.

The UNSC invited the ASEAN Chair alongside Cambodia and Thailand at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on February 14.

The UN Security Council president, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti of Brazil, called in the meeting for a "permanent ceasefire", AFP reported.

Jakarta-based ASEAN Secretary-General Dr Surin Pitsuwan in a press statement said the UNSC`s open and official support for conciliation efforts to the ASEAN Chair was a sign that the United Nations had faith in ASEAN to help its Member States find amicable regional solutions to bilateral problems.

Both Cambodia and Thailand welcomed Minister Marty to help in their search for an amicable and peaceful solution to their differences, as ASEAN continued to strengthen its dispute settlement mechanism, in line with the ASEAN Charter, Dr. Surin stated.

However, despite the commitments made by the conflicting nations, a couple of armed clashes had occurred again in their border. There had also been a report saying that Thailand did not wish Indonesia`s facilitating role in its conflict with Cambodia, but the report was later denied by Thai officials.

Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa after meeting with Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya in Jakarta on April 28, said that the Thai government had reiterated its seriousness in continuing the settlement of its border conflict with Cambodia through dialogues.

"Thailand also wishes to hold a cease-fire like what Cambodia has also expressed. The problem is there has been a lack of trust. So the question is how their determination conveyed in separate occasions could be made into reality as one stance," he said.

"We must develop trust building again by considering various aspects especially the loss of lives, materials and friendship," the minister said.

According to Marty, the Thai government was strongly expecting Indonesia to play a role in settling its problem with Cambodia, ASEAN had also been encouraged to be involved in bilateral dialogues.

Marty denied media reports that Thailand had been reluctant to involve ASEAN in the settlement of the dispute saying that Thailand was open for ASEAN involvement.

"ASEAN is a big family to which Thailand also belongs, so it is no longer considered as a third party in this process," Marty told the press.

In the joint press conference with Marty, the then visiting Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said his government hailed the role of Indonesia as the ASEAN chair in helping solve its border dispute with Cambodia.

"Thailand is one of ASEAN`s founders so that we wish to see ASEAN`s constructive role in settling the border conflict with Cambodia," Kasit told the press.

According to Marty, there was a significant progress related to the formulation of terms of reference from Indonesian monitoring team, and the Thai government has welcomed it.

Marty reiterated that the border problem had erupted because of a crisis of trust between the two parties, so that Indonesia would play a role to bridge their communication.

The United States government has expressed its support to Indonesia to make use the chairmanship of ASEAN Summit in easing the tension between Thailand and Cambodia.

"We support the efforts of Indonesia in their role as chair of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to work with both countries to reach a resolution," US Secretary of States Hillary Rodham Clinton, on April 25.

She expressed deep concerns on clash between Thailand and Cambodian military in border of both countries and urged both to restrain.

The military of Thailand and Cambodia last April 22 to 24 again exchanged fires in Ta Moan and Ta Krabei temples, the border sites of both countries.

Another support received by Indonesia came from Singapore for its effort as the ASEAN chair to facilitate constructive dialogue between Thailand and Cambodia.

"It is important for both countries to work closely with Indonesia as the ASEAN Chair, in implementing the agreements reached during the Informal ASEAN Foreign Affairs Ministers` Meeting on February 22, 2011," the Singaporean foreign ministry said in a press statement on April 26.

In the statement, Singapore also hoped that a peace agreement between Thailand and Cambodia can be reached by the time the 18th ASEAN Summit takes place on May 7 and 8, 2011.

Using the momentum of the upcoming ASEAN Summit, an Indonesian legislator, Fayakhun Andriadi, has called on ASEAN to end its border conflicts.

"It will be hard to realize ASEAN unity if the members are still in clash over their border lines," the member of the House of Representatives (DPR)`s Commission I dealing with defense and security said in Jakarta on Tuesday (May 3).

He took an example of the border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia which took casualties from both sides and other potential Malaysia-Indonesia, Philippines-Malaysia, Indonesia-Singapore and Indonesia-Vietnam conflicts.

"Border conflicts are among vital issues which can trigger people`s anger. I hope Indonesia as the 2011 Chairman of ASEAN can play a role in solving border problems among members of ASEAN," the legislator said. (ANTARA)

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