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FM to see security council

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Cambodian soldiers patrol the Preah Vihear temple complex.

Foreign ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said today that at a security council meeting on Monday, Hor Namhong would present Cambodia’s perspective on the conflict that broke out near Preah Vihear temple last week, killing at least eight people and displacing thousands of civilians.

“It is his main task ... not just only to go there and sit and listen, but also to talk,” Koy Kuong said.

Chawanon Intharakomansut, secretary for Thai foreign minister Kasit Piromya, confirmed that Kasit would also attend the meeting to “explain the situation” at the border, the AFP news agency reported.

Koy Kuong said he was unsure of whether the two would hold bilateral talks on the sidelines of the meeting.

Hor Namhong and Prime Minister Hun Sen have written to the security council within the past week to appeal for intervention in the border conflict and assistance in stemming Thai “aggression”. Thailand, however, has consistently rejected third party mediation in the dispute, favouring talks under the auspices of the countries’ bilateral Joint Border Committee.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, whose country holds the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, visited Thai and Cambodian officials earlier this week to try and help broker a solution to the conflict.

Koy Kuong said today, however, that Cambodia had yet to agree to ASEAN mediation or bilateral talks.

“Now, the issue is in the hands of the UN Security Council, so we’ll wait and see,” he said.

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said in New York that he had spoken with Hun Sen and Abhisit on Tuesday in relation to the conflict.

Ban told reporters at UN headquarters that he had urged both sides “to end violence, to exercise restraint, and find a lasting solution to the dispute through established mechanisms and arrangements”, adding that the UN “remains at their disposal to assist”.

Speaking today at Chaktomuk Theatre in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen said he had personally pressed Ban for a stepped-up UN role in the conflict, adding that the dispute had moved past the point of a bilateral resolution.

“I appealed for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council, and secondly, I asked that the UN send peacekeepers or military observers to Cambodia,” the premier said.

“We will withdraw if they come to protect the whole area of Preah Vihear temple.”

If the security council “faces difficulty in the decision to condemn” Thailand’s actions, it should cede the mediation role to ASEAN, Hun Sen added.

Carl Thayer, a professor at the Australian Defence Force Academy, said the Security Council had the potential to use its “moral suasion” to ease tensions between Thailand and Cambodia, though he cautioned that the body may provide little in the way of a concrete solution.

“The problem is, does it rise to a level where this conflict threatens international peace and security?” he said. “If the security council cannot take any action other than calling for each side to restrain itself, they may feel free to continue doing what they’re doing.”

Tensions along the border near Preah Vihear have been heightened since 2008, when the 11th-century temple was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site for Cambodia over Thai objections. At least seven troops had been killed in periodic skirmishes in the area since 2008 prior to the most recent round of clashes, which began last Friday.

Deputy Prime Minister Sok An appealed to UNESCO this week, asking that the organisation investigate the “significant damages” allegedly inflicted on the temple by Thai weaponry.

The government initially claimed that a whole wing of the temple had collapsed under bombardment, though these reports later proved exaggerated. The temple’s staircases and exterior did appear to have sustained surface damage from bullet and artillery fire, however, while vegetation in the surrounding area was charred by explosions.

UNESCO director general Irina Bokova said on Tuesday that her organisation would send staff to investigate damage to the temple sustained during the conflict, as it did following 2008 clashes in the area. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY VONG SOKHENG

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