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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Military opposes Cambodia border talks in Indonesia

Published on March 25, 2011

Prayuth asks Phnom Penh to host GBC meeting, opposes Indonesian observers in disputed territory

One of the two scheduled meetings between Thailand and Cambodia's two border committees will not take place in Indonesia next month as the Thai military opposes holding talks in a third country, senior government officials said yesterday.

Indonesia, as Asean chair, had called parallel meetings of the General Border Committee (GBC) and the Joint Boundary Committee (JBC) on April 7-8 in Bogor, to find ways to settle the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia.

Doubts arose about the meetings after Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan and Army chief Prayut Chan-ocha said they did not want the military-run GBC to meet in a third country. The meeting should be held either in Cambodia or Thailand, Defence Ministry spokesman Thanathip Sawangsaeng said.

"The GBC is a bilateral mechanism on border affairs between Thailand and Cambodia. We have never had a meeting in a third country," he said.

Prawit said he had sent a letter to his Cambodian counterpart Tea Banh to ask whether Phnom Penh was ready to host the next GBC meeting. "I believe Cambodia would call a GBC meeting soon," he said.

Following a recommendation from the United Nations Security Council, Asean had planned to facilitate the peace arrangement between Thailand and Cambodia after a major border skirmish in February. It proposed sending Indonesian observers to the disputed areas adjacent to the Hindu temple of Preah Vihear.

Jakarta said yesterday that as Asean chair it was waiting for approval of observers from both host countries. Phnom Penh has already replied it was ready to accept the observers, but Thailand was reluctant as the military said the plan should be discussed in the GBC meeting first.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva tried to gloss over the disagreement, saying the military would participate in the GBC meeting eventually, but it would not hold it parallel with the Foreign Ministry-run JBC.

The JBC is a bilateral mechanism for land boundary demarcation. Its progress was stalled when the Thai Parliament delayed approving the minutes of previous meetings. Parliament will discuss the documents today.

"At this stage, the JBC would be an important forum to talk over the boundary matters, including the Indonesian observers," Abhisit said.

Both countries should examine the way the Indonesians plan to carry out their observation, he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban echoed the military opinion, saying Thailand would not allow any foreign officials to be stationed in the disputed area. "We have to discuss details of the observation first," he said.

Abhisit also said he did not want to see Indonesian observers in the 4.6-square-kilometre disputed area claimed by Thailand and Cambodia.

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