Solve Thai-Cambodian disputes bilaterally: UN chief

October 1, 2008 at 1:29 am Leave a comment

The Nation – October 01, 2008
By Supalak Ganjanakhundee

New York

United Nations SecretaryGeneral Ban Kimoon has suggested that the border disputes between Thailand and Cambodia should be settled bilaterally, Foreign Minister Sompong Amornwiwat said yesterday.

The UN chief expressed this view to the foreign ministers of both countries while they and other colleagues from Asean met him on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

The ThaiCambodian border conflict was among the issues discussed, along with Burma’s rehabilitation following Cyclone Nargis.

The border dispute was brought to the UN attention’s when Phnom Penh sought to take the Preah Vihear temple issue to the UN Security Council in July. However, it was put on hold, as both sides have many bilateral mechanisms to handle such a conflict.

The UN chief said yesterday that using such bilateral mechanisms was the right way to settle the problem.

Prior to the meeting with Ban, Sompong and Cambodian Secretary of State Ouch Borith briefed an informal Asean ministerial meeting on the progress in settling the dispute. They needed to report to Asean, as Cambodia had put the conflict to the grouping during the ministerial meeting in Singapore in July.

Asean members also told Thailand and Cambodia to solve the problem bilaterally.

The two neighbours have been in conflict since Cambodia succeeded in having the Hindu temple of Preah Vihear listed as a World Heritage site, and angry Thai protesters in July forced the military to deploy troops in a standoff with Cambodia.

The previous government under Samak Sundaravej did, however, negotiate to redeploy troops in the areas to just 10 on each side of the disputed border area, and for 20 others on each side to be stationed further from the border.

“We told the Asean ministers that there is no longer confrontation, since previous negotiations manage to reduce the number of troops,” Sompong said.

The foreign minister said he would visit Cambodia shortly after the parliamentary session for policy announcement, due on October 78.

“I intend to visit Phnom Penh around the same time as I visit Laos, in order to pave the way for the new prime minister’s upcoming visit,” Sompong told reporters.

Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat will visit Cambodia on October 13 to discuss the border dispute.

Sompong said his Cambodian colleagues wanted to bring other disputed areas, and particularly Ta Muen Thom temple, into the next discussions. Both sides claim sovereignty in the border area where the Khmer sanctuary is situated, namely Oddar Meanchey province in Cambodia, across the border from Surin province.

Cambodia also wants a third Hindu sanctuary, at Ta Kwai, to be discussed. However, Thailand has not yet added this to the agenda.

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

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