Cambodia and Thailand remain committed to the deployment of independent observers at the disputed Preah Vihear border despite comments from a Thai general suggesting they may not be necessary, the respective foreign ministries said.
On Saturday, the Bangkok Post quoted Thai military supreme commander General Thanasak Patimapakorn saying his Indonesian counterpart had dismissed the necessity for his country to provide observers.
“Indonesia considers that if the two countries can talk, they will have no need to come in, and this is also the two nations’ stance,” General Thanasak reportedly said.
A source from the Indonesian Embassy in Phnom Penh said the country would only intervene if both sides agreed that observers should be deployed in the 17.3-square-kilometre Provisional Demilitarized Zone surrounding the disputed 11th-century temple.
“If both governments do not agree, we will not come in. So the ball is in the Thai government’s court,” the source said.
Thai Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Thani Thongpakdee said his ministry and the defence ministry remain committed to implementing the observers, and the country is continuing to negotiate terms of reference with Cambodia to do so.
“Once we come up with an agreement upon the terms of reference, that will be submitted to the Thai cabinet and subsequently will be submitted for parliamentary approval,” he said.
Cambodian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said Cambodia remains committed to implementing the International Court of Justice’s July 18, 2011, ruling that both countries must withdraw troops from the PDZ so independent observers can be deployed.
“So for Cambodia’s part, we always agree about the terms of reference. For the Cambodian side, there’s no problem,” he said.
Separately, Cambodian Foreign Minister and current ASEAN chair Hor Namhong on Friday released a statement from the 10-country bloc on the controversial issue of the South China Sea, following criticisms of how Cambodia approached the dispute while hosting the recent ASEAN Regional Forum.
The statement reaffirmed the commitment of ASEAN foreign ministers to “the early conclusion of a Regional Code of Conduct”, negotiations over which saw the Philippines and Vietnam at loggerheads with Cambodia and China during the summit.