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ASEAN to consider border talks

ASEAN to consider border talks

ASEAN chair Vietnam has said it is considering mediation in the long-running border dispute between Cambodia and Thailand, with bilateral talks between the two countries currently stalled.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong wrote to Vietnamese foreign minister Pham Gia Khiem last week to request ASEAN involvement in the dispute in order to prevent “large-scale armed conflict”.

This followed a letter, written by Prime Minister Hun Sen to the UN Security Council, in which the premier called for international intervention, later warning that tension could lead to “bloodshed”.

“As ASEAN chair, Vietnam is actively consulting other ASEAN countries about the proposal that ASEAN mediates over the Preah Vihear dispute,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga said in a statement Tuesday.

Nguyen said that Vietnam hoped to see a peaceful settlement of the dispute, and called on Cambodia and Thailand to refrain “from armed conflict and from acts that could affect ASEAN solidarity”.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said the government welcomed Vietnam’s move to open dialogue on the issue.

“Cambodia and Thailand are members of ASEAN, so in order to avoid bloodshed or large-scale armed conflict, we need to utilise a multilateral mechanism initiated by

ASEAN,” Koy Kuong said.

Thai officials have repeatedly said they favour bilateral negotiations through the existing Joint Border Committee, though JBC negotiations have been stalled since last year pending approval of the committee’s latest agreements by the Thai parliament.

Yesterday, the Thai government said a planned parliamentary vote to approve these agreements had been postponed, prompting charges from Cambodian officials that Thailand was intentionally delaying the process.

A report from Thai state media yesterday quoted Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban as saying that Thailand was still against international mediation.

“Mr Suthep reiterated that the solutions to the border demarcation dispute between Thailand and Cambodia should be sought through bilateral negotiations, and that there was no need for either party to ask an international body to step in to help solve the conflict,” the report said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

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