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ASEAN mediation sought

Cambodia makes bid to avert ‘armed conflict’ over Thai issue

CAMBODIA has requested assistance from ASEAN chair Vietnam in order to head off any “large-scale armed conflict” that may result from the ongoing border dispute with Thailand.

In a letter sent on Saturday to Vietnamese Foreign Affairs Minister Pham Gia Khiem and copied to all ASEAN foreign ministers, Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong accused Thailand of showing aggression against the Kingdom on several occasions since hostilities first broke out near Preah Vihear temple in July of 2008.

“Until now, Cambodia has exercised utmost restraint and attempted to find a peaceful solution to the problem bilaterally, but to no avail,” Hor Namhong wrote in the letter.

During his weekly television broadcast yesterday morning, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva reportedly accused Cambodia of violating the countries’ 2000 memorandum of understanding on the demarcation of their shared border by encroaching on Thai territory, the Bangkok Post said. Abhisit reportedly added, however, that Thailand remained committed to bilateral negotiations.

“Thailand is committed to solve the border dispute peacefully under the 2000 MoU,” Abhisit said.

A statement released yesterday by the Thai government’s public relations department said Thailand had “consistently expressed its opposition over Cambodia’s intrusion upon the disputed land and its filing of the unilateral management plan for the listing of the [Preah] Vihear temple as a World Heritage site”.

Thai authorities would “speedily clarify” the issue to the international community, the statement said.

Tith Sothea, spokesman for the Press and Quick Reaction Unit at the Council of Ministers, yesterday denounced the comments from Abhisit and the Thai government. “Cambodia has never encroached on Thai territory. [Abhisit’s] comments are meaningless, and are just part of a campaign to obscure the fact that Thailand has abused the UN Charter,” Tith Sothea said.

“Thailand has no willingness to resolve the border dispute through the 2000 MoU.”

Hun Sen warned in a speech last week that the border tension could lead to “bloodshed”.

The recent upswing in animosity between the two countries stems from a meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee that concluded earlier this month in Brazil. Cambodian officials submitted a management plan for Preah Vihear Temple that the committee will discuss next year.

Both Hun Sen and Abhisit wrote to the UN Security Council last week to explain their positions on the dispute.

Abhisit reportedly plans to discuss the issue with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during a visit to New York next month.

Hun Sen said last week that the issue would be raised during a trip by Ban to Cambodia in October.

Last week, UN officials in Phnom Penh and New York could not confirm that Ban would be visiting.

ASEAN and Thai government officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.



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