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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Thailand wants talks wIth CambodIa on observers

By The Nation

Thailand wants to discuss plans for Indonesian observation of the border conflict with Cambodia during boundary committee meetings in Indonesia later this month, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

As Asean chair, Indonesia has proposed hosting the Thailand-Cambodia Joint Boundary Committee (JBC) on demarcation and the General Border Committee (GBC) in Bogor from March 24-25.

Cambodia has said it agrees to the proposal and will attend the meetings of the two bodies.

Phnom Penh insisted the meetings could not be bilateral discussions between the two parties, asking for Indonesia to act as a "referee" over the matter.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongpakdi said Thailand regarded the meetings as bilateral although Indonesia would observe proceedings.

Thailand wants discussions on the terms of reference (TOR) for Indonesian observers on the border between the two countries at the disputed area adjacent to the Hindu temple of Preah Vihear, he said.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Thailand was ready to discuss the border matter with Cambodia and hoped the border meetings in Indonesia could ease border tension.

"But we have to look at the form of the meetings since there will be a third country to engage with the issue," he said.

"The JBC and GBC have their own mechanisms but it would be no problem if anybody sat in as a witness," he said. "Indonesia, as the chair of Asean, will acknowledge the meetings but it will not intervene in the content of the meetings."

Thailand and Cambodia have long been at loggerheads over the boundary issue. The latest clashes took place from February 4-7 and claimed around 10 lives including three civilians on both sides.

Cambodia brought up the issue with the United Nations Security Council and Asean last month.

The UN urged Asean to enforce a "permanent ceasefire" at the border areas. Indonesia came up with a plan to dispatch observers to the disputed border. The TOR has been sent to the two for consideration. Phnom Penh has agreed to the terms, though Thailand is still studying them.

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