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Thais reject ASEAN role in border row

Dispute with Cambodia must be solved bilaterally: Bangkok.

THAILAND has rejected reports that it favours ASEAN intervention in its ongoing border dispute with Cambodia, one day after Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong sent a letter to his Thai counterpart, Kasit Piromya, supporting the idea.

Last Thursday, the Bangkok Post newspaper published an article in which Kasit was quoted as saying that he planned to propose the
establishment of a “neutral organisation” to resolve disputes between ASEAN countries at the regional body’s upcoming summit in Hua Hin, Thailand, to be held October 23 to 25.

Such an organisation, Kasit was quoted as saying, “may provide an avenue for Thailand and Cambodia to settle the dispute” over the border area near Preah Vihear temple.

Hor Namhong cited this article in his letter to Kasit, proposing that ASEAN include the two countries’ border dispute in the agenda for its upcoming summit.

On Tuesday, however, an official from the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Bangkok Post had taken Kasit’s quotes out of context, and that Thailand continues to support bilateral negotiations under the auspices of the Joint Border Commission as the means of settling the dispute.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Tuesday that although officials in his ministry had yet to receive an
official response regarding Hor Namhong’s letter, they were open to a variety of proposals for settling the two countries’ disagreement.

“Cambodia has said that the border issue should be solved bilaterally, peacefully and unequivocally” with Thailand, Koy Kuong said.

“But if Thailand wants the border issues to be solved at the ASEAN level, Cambodia is happy to accept it.”

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political analyst at Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University, was more cynical about Hor Namhong’s letter, however. He called the missive an example of “brinksmanship”, saying that Hor Namhong likely recognises the difficult position in which the border issue places Thailand.

“This would be a challenge to Thailand, as the host and chair of ASEAN, not to be able to solve the border dispute through the ASEAN framework,” he said, adding that Cambodia likely believes its case for the disputed territory would stand up well under international scrutiny.

Officials contacted at the ASEAN secretariat in Jakarta had not responded to a request for comment as of press time on Tuesday.

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