Saturday, 26 July 2008

Cambodia Suspends Call for UN Intervention on Border Dispute

Cambodian soldiers stand guard at Preah Vihear temple. (Photo: AFP)

The Irrawaddy News

PHNOM PENH — Cambodia will pursue UN intervention to avoid a military confrontation with Thailand if talks between the two countries fail to produce a breakthrough, the Cambodian foreign minister said Friday.

Cambodia is only postponing—not canceling—its request for the UN Security Council to hold an emergency meeting on the dispute over contested land near a historic temple, Hor Namhong told reporters.

Foreign ministers from both countries are scheduled to meet Monday in the Cambodian city of Siem Reap.

"This is a new step in our goodwill to try to find a solution to the problem through peaceful negotiations," Hor Namhong said after meeting with ambassadors to Cambodia from the Security Council's five permanent members.

The session was called to inform diplomats about the Monday talks.

He said he was "quite hopeful" that the Monday meeting could resolve the standoff near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple. However, if the talks fail, "resorting to the United Nations is still more preferable than waging a war."

The comments came a day after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a statement saying he had advised the Security Council to "temporarily postpone its meeting while awaiting results of the negotiations between Cambodia and Thailand."

Military tensions between the two countries over 1.8 square miles (4.6 square kilometers) of land intensified earlier this month after UNESCO approved a Cambodian application to have the temple designated a World Heritage Site.

Thailand sent troops to the border July 15 after anti-government demonstrators lashed out at Samak's government for supporting Cambodia's application. They claim the temple's new status will undermine Thailand's claim to land around the temple.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej spoke by telephone Thursday and agreed to schedule the meeting next week between their foreign ministers.

Political attempts earlier this week to resolve the crisis failed, prompting Cambodia to take the issue to the UN.

Thailand opposes the involvement of the UN or Asean, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which both countries are members of. Thailand's UN ambassador, Don Pramudwinai, has accused Cambodia of bringing the quarrel before the Security Council because "the Cambodian target is not only Preah Vihear but the entire common border."

Don said Cambodia was trying to force Thailand to accept a French colonial map's demarcation of the border.

Thailand relies on a different map drawn up later with American technical assistance, but accepts a ruling by the International Court of Justice that awarded the disputed temple to Cambodia in 1962.

No comments: