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Cambodia still wants Indonesian observers

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Royal Cambodian Armed Forces prepare for their withdrawal from the Thai border in Preah Vihear province last week.

Cambocian officials yesterday reiterated their desire to see unarmed Indonesian observers dispatched to a demilitarised zone surrounding Preah Vihear temple, countering comments reportedly made by the new Thai Defence Minister.

Thai Defence Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa said yesterday that sending Indonesian observers may not be necessary if Cambodia and Thailand could resolve the issue bilaterally, the Bangkok Post reported.

Yutthasak also reportedly said that the idea had been introduced by Cambodia.

Pending an agreement, the two countries would notify the International Court of Justice that the observers were no longer needed.

The ICJ, the highest court of the United Nations, ordered both countries on July 18 to “immediately withdraw” all military forces from a newly-created demilitarised zone around Preah Vihear temple and allow Indonesian observers to monitor a ceasefire in the area.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said yesterday that both countries had to comply with the ruling. “Our position is that the two countries, Cambodia and Thailand, have to obey the ICJ’s ruling, and it is necessary to have the presence of Indonesian observers deployed for monitoring the withdrawal of troops,” he said.

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said he could not confirm the alleged Cambodian proposal regarding the observers.

“Prime Minister Hun Sen has never talked about the role of the Indonesian observers as being unnecessary,” he said.

Yutthasak has also reportedly said that Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh has invited him to meet through the General Border Committee in Phnom Penh. Tea Banh could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong has also invited his counterpart to meet, though Koy Kuong said no dates had been set yet.

Bilateral talks on troop withdrawals from the demilitarised zone are expected to take place on August 24 and 25 via a new Regional Border Committee. Yutthasak said that meeting would pave the way for the GBC meeting and eventual troop withdrawals.

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