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UN dodges border dispute

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Monday urged Cambodia and Thailand to settle the border dispute by themselves, dashing the hopes of the Cambodian government for an intervention. 

The UN chief briefed Cambodian foreign affairs secretary, Ouch Borith, and Thai foreign minister, Sompong Amornivivat, as they met their Asean counterparts to discuss border talks at the UN General Assembly in New York. Asean has also pushed for a bilateral resolution.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan downplayed the UN's decision as "nothing new" and insisted Cambodia was comfortable sticking to bilateral channels.

"It is a more than 100-year-old border; we don't need new people involved for us to know where it is," he said.

On September 12, Prime Minister Hun Sen said he planned to seek international arbitration in the border dispute by taking the issue back to the UN Security Council and to the International Court of Justice.

On July 22, soon after the stand-off at Preah Vihear began, Cambodia appealed to the Security Council but withdrew the complaint two days later after Thailand agreed to hold talks on the issue.

While discussions over a full troop withdrawal stagnated after the recent political unrest in Bangkok, Sompong Amornvivat was quoted in Thai daily The Nation on Tuesday saying: "we told the Asean ministers that there is no longer confrontation since previous negotiations manage to reduce numbers of troops."

But tensions on the ground have escalated, spreading to temple sites along the border.

Sompong Amornivivat is to visit Cambodia before new Premier Somchai Wongsawat's scheduled arrival on October 13.

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