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FM pushes border talks

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said Wednesday that Prime Minister Hun Sen could raise the border issue at an upcoming ASEAN summit.

We have been very patient about resolving the border issue with thailand...

CAMBODIA may raise the issue of its ongoing border dispute with Thailand during the upcoming ASEAN summit in the Thai resort town of Hua Hin, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said Wednesday.

Last week, the Bangkok Post newspaper published an article quoting Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya as saying that he planned to propose the establishment of a “neutral organisation” to resolve disputes between ASEAN countries at the regional body’s next summit, to be held October 23 to 25.

In a letter to Kasit dated Monday, Hor Namhong cited the Bangkok Post article in proposing that ASEAN include the two countries’ border dispute in the agenda for Hua Hin. On Tuesday, however, the Thai Foreign Ministry said that the Bangkok Post had misquoted Kasit, adding that Thailand remains committed to bilateral negotiations under the auspices of the Joint Border Commission rather than international ones.

Hor Namhong said Wednesday that he had yet to receive an official response to his letter from the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but that in the absence of such a response, Cambodia may raise the issue at the ASEAN summit.

“If there is no official reply from the Thai foreign minister, Prime Minister Hun Sen may raise the border issue directly with his Thai counterpart, Abhisit, who is the chairman of ASEAN, in order to resolve the dispute,” Hor Namhong said, referring to Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Hor Namhong also complained that Thai politicians have been delaying the resolution of the conflict, warning that Cambodia might eventually bring the issue to the UN Security Council or the International Court of Justice for arbitration.

“We have been very patient about resolving the border issue with Thailand through bilateral talks in order to avoid war, but the Thai parliament has again and again delayed approval of the agreements reached by the Joint Border Commission, so some day we may bring the border dispute with Thailand to the international floor,” he said.

Thani Thongphakdi, deputy spokesman for the Thai ministry of foreign affairs, said Wednesday that Thailand had already sent a letter to Cambodia to explain that Kasit had been misquoted. Efforts to negotiate the disagreement in an international venue, he said, “might complicate the issue”, adding that ASEAN nations have previously agreed the issue is best handled bilaterally.

Chris Roberts, a lecturer at the University of Canberra and the author of an upcoming book on ASEAN, said that debate at the ASEAN level might be the most productive way for the quarreling nations to end their disagreement. He added, however, that Thailand likely prefers bilateral debate because it feels it is the “more dominant state” in this forum.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political analyst at Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University, said Bangkok “will certainly not allow the border dispute to be solved in any forum other than a bilateral one”, adding that Hor Namhong has “put pressure” on Thailand by pushing for ASEAN intervention.

Roberts agreed, saying that this crisis presents the opportunity “for Thailand, Cambodia and ASEAN more generally to move to a higher plane where they [can] engage in conflict resolution.”



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