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ASEAN brokers Preah Vihear deal

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa (centre), flanked by Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong (left) and Thailand’s Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya (right), speaks at a news conference after an informal meeting in Jakarta today.

Cambodia and Thailand have agreed to accept Indonesian military and civilian observers to monitor disputed border areas that were the scene of bloody clashes earlier this month, following a meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers in Jakarta today.

Speaking after the meeting, Indonesian Foreign Minister and current ASEAN chairman Marty Natalegawa described the solution as a “unique arrangement”.

Though full details were not immediately available, Natalegawa, speaking for ASEAN, said each team would consist of 20 military and civilian members charged with observing a ceasefire agreed by both sides.

“It’s quite a unique regiment in the sense that Indonesian observers will be on both sides of the boundaries, on the Thai side as well as on the Cambodian side,” Natalegawa told reporters.

He added that the observers would report to both ASEAN and the United Nations Security Council.

According to a statement released by the ASEAN Secretariat following the meeting, Natalegawa said Indonesia agreed “to assist and support the parties in respecting their commitment to avoid further armed clashes between them, by observing and reporting accurately, as well as impartially on complaints of violations and submitting its findings to each party through Indonesia”.

The dispatch of the Indonesian observers will be based on the experience of similar missions from ASEAN personnel to East Timor in 1999 and Aceh in 2003-05, as well as an Indonesian mission to the southern Philippines, the statement said, adding that Natalegawa will “promptly propose a model for the two countries’ consideration”.

The agreement follows a series of bloody clashes along the border close to Preah Vihear temple earlier this month, which left at least 10 dead and dozens injured on both sides.

Prior to today’s meeting, Prime Minister Hun Sen backed down from his previous insistence that Thailand sign a permanent border ceasefire under ASEAN auspices, following Bangkok’s initial proposal that Indonesian observers be dispatched to monitor the border situation.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, the Premier said Foreign Minister Hor Namhong met Natalegawa in Jakarta on Monday and proposed that Indonesia send observers to the border as soon as possible.

The request followed a similar suggestion from Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, who proposed on Sunday that Indonesian officials “embed” themselves with Thai troops to monitor a ceasefire brokered by military officials on the weekend.

“We have proposed for [Natalegawa] to send observers as soon as possible, so the positions of the two [governments] are the same,” Hun Sen said.

Hun Sen has also lashed out at Thailand’s Yellow Shirt movement, which has slammed Bangkok’s decision to broker a deal with Cambodia, saying the agreement signed on Saturday was not a comprehensive agreement to cease hostilities.

“The Thai military commanders are not ignorant. I encouraged military and military commanders to meet and play sports or share candies rather than sharing bullets with each other,” said Hun Sen.

Hor Namhong and the Cambodian delegation are set to hold a press conference on their return to Phnom Penh today.  ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY REUTERS



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