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ASEAN chief calls for calm

ASEAN secretary general Surin Pitsuwan has called for a “peaceful” resolution to the border spat between Cambodia and Thailand.

“We certainly would like to see a peaceful resolution to any problem in ASEAN,” Surin told reporters after a 30-minute meeting with Foreign Minister Hor Namhong.

“I will have to wait for the decision of the ASEAN foreign ministers and His Excellency Hor Namhong will certainly consult with his colleagues.”

Surin’s visit to Cambodia, where he is also attending a regional health summit, came just two days after Hor Namhong wrote to current ASEAN chair Vietnam, proposing that the 30-member bloc mediate in the border conflict in order to avoid “large-scale armed conflict”.

In a speech earlier this month, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that bilateral discussions had stalled and called for an international solution to the issue.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Hor Namhong said he had discussed the Thai-Cambodian border issue with Surin during his meeting, but that ASEAN’s foreign ministers had not yet responded to his letter.

“Whatever resolution is taken has to be done through peaceful means,” Hor Namhong said.

“We have already prepared for all outcomes so the people should not be worry; the government has already prepared for both discussions and military [action].”

In a statement issued Sunday, the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the current dispute “should best be resolved peacefully through existing bilateral mechanisms”, including the two countries’ 2000 memorandum of understanding on border demarcation.

The current dispute ignited in July 2008, when Preah Vihear temple was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Both countries claim a 4.6-square kilometre area adjacent to the temple.

The Bangkok Post reported yesterday that Thailand, which has consistently opposed a multilateral solution to the crisis, was pushing for a fresh meeting of the two countries’ Joint Boundary Commission.

Chawanon Intharakomansut, secretary to the Thai foreign minister, was quoted as saying the outcome of previous JBC meetings would be brought up in the Thai parliament today.

Surin also had a two-and-a-half hour meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday afternoon, during which the pair agreed that both parties to the dispute should remain patient.

Sri Thamrong, an advisor to Hun Sen, told reporters after the meeting that Surin and Hun Sen had a “common vision” for the solution of the border dispute.

He said that Cambodia had welcomed Thailand’s initiative to submit previous JBC meetings for approval by the Thai parliament.

“We have been patient for quite a long on this matter, so that is why we want to have international intervention. But right now we see signs that Thailand is pushing its parliament to adopt the previous foreign ministers’ talks,” Sri Thamrong said.



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