No agreement yet for Thai-Cambodian foreign ministers’ border dispute meeting

August 20, 2008 at 1:38 am Leave a comment

CHA-AM, Thailand, Aug. 19 (Xinhua) — No new agreement has been reached yet after hours of negotiations between Thai and Cambodian delegations led by respective foreign ministers over the disputed border around the Preah Vihear temple on Tuesday at Thailand’s central resort town Cha-am, Phetchburi province.

The meeting between Thai Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag and his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong and a parallel study group by military and related border affairs officials opened on the morning at a hotel in Cha-am, some 220 kilometers southwest of Bangkok and near the beach resort town Hua Hin.

The meeting is aimed to find a peaceful solution to a long border dispute regarding a 4.6-sq-kilometer area around the 11th-century ruins of the Khmer-style Hindu temple of Preah Vihear, listed recently by UNESCO as a World Heritage, and to lay down foundations for future cooperation on demarcation and demining work along the disputed border.

The meeting lasted some six hours with a short lunch break before the two ministers left for a scheduled audience to the ThaiKing Bhumibol Adulyadej at the royal summer palace at nearby Hua Hin, where the King now resides, at around 4:30 p.m. (0930 GMT).

They will return to the hotel in the evening to continue the meeting, which was supposed to end within the day. However, the anticipation for a conclusion of success or breakthrough was low, as both sides had strong claims over some points that made the negotiation hard to pass through, sources said.

This is the second-round talks on a ministerial level. The two foreign minister had their first talks on July 28 in Siem Reap, Cambodia, which produced no big breakthrough.

As a result of the talks and a good gesture before the second meeting, however, the two sides did remove most of their military personnel, which have been quickly strengthened since mid-July to an estimated 1,000 more from each side, along the disputed border around the temple since Saturday.

On Tuesday afternoon, outside the hotel, a number of Thais had a quiet protest against Cambodia’s “occupation” of Preah Vihear site and surrounding border areas, by raising banners which reads “Cambodia get out.”

Earlier before the meeting started, Tharit Charungvat, spokesman for the Thai Foreign Ministry, said the atmosphere between the two ministers was good on Monday when they met and joined in a dinner, and that the situation has been improving a lot, as the tensions at the border have been eased as a result of the military “redeployment” following previous talks under bilateral mechanism including the General Border Committee which started early July and the Foreign Ministers’ first meeting.

Tharit reiterated that territorial dispute is normal for any two neighboring countries, and that the situation for Thailand and Cambodia has now cooled down.

Thailand hopes that Tuesday’s meeting would turn out positive results, and “the situation will go back to normal as soon as possible”, but he could not give the timetable for when the planned border demarcation work and complete military retreatment from the zone in question would start or finish.

Before Tuesday’s talks, only about 10 soldiers from each side remain at the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara Pagoda on the access to the Preah Vihear temple, which sits at the border between Thai northeastern province of Si Sa Ket and Cambodia’s Preah Vihear province, following a respective “redeployment” since Saturday, and some 20 others from each side at areas nearby for patrol.

The military stand-off, which has seen a quick increase of military personnel along the disputed border zone by each side, started after three Thais, including a monk, were briefly detained by Cambodian authorities on July 15 for “intruding Cambodian territory” by breaking into the Preah Vihear temple compound to declare Thai sovereignty over the temple.

The temple was awarded to Cambodia in a 1962 verdict of the International Court of Justice, which some Thais have been reluctant to accept. The dispute became a hot issue when Cambodia launched efforts to bid for the listing of the temple as a World Heritage Site last year.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee approved Cambodia’s application early last month, triggering a wave of national sentiment in Thailand urging the Thai government to take counter actions in defense of territorial sovereignty.

Then Thai foreign minister Noppadon Pattama was forced to resign last month for signing a joint communique to endorse Thai support for Cambodia’s World Heritage bid without prior parliament approval, which was later held unconstitutional. Veteran diplomat Tej Bunnag was appointed as the successor just in time for the first ministerial talks on July 28 in Siem Reap, Cambodia, which produced no breakthrough but an agreement on “military redeployment” along the disputed border.

Earlier Reports from Phnom Penh quoted Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong as saying before leaving for Thailand on Monday that he was optimistic about the second bilateral meeting “to seek peaceful resolution to withdraw the troops totally from the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara Pagoda and the surrounding areas of the Preah Vihear Temple.”     

Editor: Yan

Entry filed under: Politics, Preah Vihear Issue. Tags: , .

Cambodian daily newspaper closes Thailand, Cambodia agree on full troop redeployment

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