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Delegation off for Indonesia

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Foreign Minister Hor Namhong (right) speaks alongside Defence Minister Tea Banh before their departure for Indonesia, for talks with Thai officals, yesterday.

A Cambodian delegation including Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and Defence Minister Tea Banh left yesterday for a meeting in Indonesia at which they are set to talk with Thai officials about the countries’ ongoing border dispute.

Concurrent meetings of the countries’ bilateral Joint Border Committee, which deals with demarcation issues, and General Border Committee, which deals with security, are scheduled for today and Friday in Bogor, Indonesia.

The summit was organised following deadly clashes in February along the border near Preah Vihear temple that left at least 10 people dead, dozens injured and thousands of civilians displaced.

Speaking to reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport prior to his departure, Hor Namhong said participants at the meeting would aim to finalise an agreement that will bring unarmed Indonesian military observers to either side of the border to monitor the situation.

“The discussion of the foreign ministers from Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia will lead to a compromise to bring Indonesian military observers to the border between Cambodia and Thailand,” Hor Namhong said.

Indonesia now serves as chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the foreign ministers of which met in February in relation to the conflict. Cambodia and Thailand also appeared before the United Nations Security Council in February to discuss the dispute.

Thai officials have offered conflicting statements as to whether or not they will attend the meeting, with military leaders including Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon saying they would not agree to have the GBC meeting held in a third country.

Hor Namhong said Cambodia had paid little attention to these statements and would be attending the meeting regardless of how officials in Bangkok chose to proceed.

“The information from Thailand and the comments from Thailand could make us crazy, so to avoid this craziness we ignore everything and only do what is arranged by the ASEAN chair,” Hor Namhong said. “We don’t want to be crazy with Thailand.”

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said yesterday that Thai officials were prepared to attend the JBC meeting but would prefer to have the GBC meeting “either in Cambodia or Thailand”. The JBC, he added, may discuss the completion of a map of the border area.

Thai military supreme commander Songkitti Jaggabatara said Tuesday that the military opposed the GBC meeting in Indonesia and would not allow the proposed Indonesian observers to enter a stretch of territory near Preah Vihear temple that is claimed by both sides and has been the scene of clashes, the Bangkok Post reported.

The friction between the Thai government and military on the issue has raised questions about whether another of Thailand’s many military coups may be brewing, though Songkitti said that there will “definitely not be a coup”, the Bangkok Post reported.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY THOMAS MILLER

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