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UN hears border arguments

UN hears border arguments

preah_vihear_wire
Royal Cambodian Armed Forces soldiers carry ammunition close to Preah Vihear temple during four days of fighting earlier this month.

The Cambodian and Thai foreign ministers addressed the United Nations Security Council at a closed-door session in New York today, a week after border clashes that left at least 10 dead and dozens injured.

The fighting, which lasted from February 4-7, also forced the evacuation of thousands of villagers from areas surrounding Preah Vihear temple.

Cambodia has said it will press for an international solution to the simmering border dispute, which erupted in July 2008 after UNESCO inscribed Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site, arguing that bilateral talks have failed to make any headway.

Before his departure, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said he would brief the council on Thailand’s “invasion” of Cambodian territory and call for the UN to “guarantee” an end to the fighting.

Ahead of the meeting, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva decried Phnom Penh’s attempt to internationalise the issue, adding he was confident Thailand could make a strong case to the UNSC that Phnom Penh had triggered the stand-off.

“We have all the information and facts … which we are preparing to put to the UNSC,” the Bangkok Post quoted Abhisit as saying.

“We’re confident that we can block Cambodia’s attempt to upgrade the matter to an international level.

“If others want to get involved, they can only come in as supporters of bilateral talks.”

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, described Abhisit’s comments as “meaningless.

“Abhisit’s attempt to block international involvement on the matter is too late: two major international bodies – the UNSC and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – are working on this matter,” Koy Kuong said.

“What Abhisit is saying is meaningless … we have stopped taking our ears to listen to what they are saying.”

No details from the UNSC meeting were available today.

Koy Kuong also rejected a claim by Abhisit, reported in the Bangkok Post today, that Cambodia had backed out of a meeting of the two countries’ Joint Border Committee set for later this month.

In the report, Abhisit was paraphrased as saying that Cambodia hoped to derail the talks in order to shut off the possibility of a bilateral solution to the conflict.

“Cambodia did not kick out the request,” Koy Kuong said.

“The fighting erupted at the border, which is why Cambodia decided not to hold the meeting.”

The recent skirmishes – the deadliest since UNESCO’s listing of Preah Vihear temple – have also prompted Abhisit to request that the agency drop Preah Vihear temple from its World Heritage list, describing the listing as the source of the long-running dispute.

He said the move would help ease the pressure on the body’s World Heritage Committee, which is set to consider a Cambodian management plan for the temple at its annual meeting in June, the Bangkok Post reported Friday.

“I believe if UNESCO manages to defuse tensions, the two sides would agree to hold talks without pressure. The two countries want their people on the border to live peacefully,” the paper quoted Abhisit as saying.

In a statement today, the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit “strongly” rejected the suggestion that the UNESCO listing was at the heart of the conflict, suggesting the “‘real tension’ has been caused by Thailand’s long-standing territorial invasion” of Cambodia.

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