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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

ASEAN Leaders Will Discuss Thai-Cambodia Conflict at Summit

An armed police officer stands guard outside the venue of the 18th ASEAN Summit - will be held on May 7-8 in Jakarta, Indonesia, May 4, 2011

Leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are gathering this week in Jakarta (May 5-8) to discuss regional economic development and mutual security issues.

Indonesia's Foreign Ministry's spokesman Michael Tene says ASEAN's role in trying to end an ongoing border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia will almost certainly be addressed when the heads of state meet May 7.

"Of course the development in Thailand, on the border of Thailand and Cambodia is one of major issues developing in our region. So it will be very natural I believe that such issues will be taken up in the summit," he said.

Indonesia took over the chairmanship of the group of 10 Southeast Asian nations this year and made it a stated goal to transform the organization from a loose association to an active participant in global economic and security matters.

But in February clashes erupted between two ASEAN members, Thailand and Cambodia. The two armies have been fighting sporadically over an area surrounding a Hindu Khmer temple, a historical landmark that both countries claim as part of their heritage.

As head of ASEAN, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa saw this conflict as a test case for what the organization leadership could achieve and he has actively tried to negotiate an end to the conflict. So far his efforts have been unsuccessful, but ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan says Natalegawa should get credit for his unprecedented diplomatic efforts.

"There has never been one single special meeting of the foreign ministers on an issue between states before, ever. We have made history under Indonesia. There has never been an attempt by the chair to go to the two capitals and holding hands and talking and try to convince that this is something that we will have to work out together," said Pitsuwan.

He says in addition to continuing to resolve the Thai-Cambodia border conflict, leaders at the summit will also likely discuss how to build on Indonesia's efforts to make ASEAN an integrated economic and political community in the future.
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Thailand, Cambodia trade blame over border battles

Thai army tanks travel on a road near the Thai-Cambodia border in Surin province April 28, 2011. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang

* Thailand says clashes are "masterfully orchestrated"

* Thai claims baseless, Cambodia says

By Martin Petty

BANGKOK, May 4 (Reuters) - Thailand and Cambodia traded barbs on Wednesday over which side started a bloody border dispute that is set to take centre stage at a meeting of Southeast Asian leaders in Jakarta this weekend.

Fighting between the two armies appeared to have eased after 12 days of artillery and gunfire that have killed 18 people on both sides, but there was no let-up in the diplomatic battle ahead of a summit of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva accused Cambodia of repeated attacks on Thai troops aimed at internationalising a dispute over sovereignty and influencing foreign opinion in its favour.

"Each time we clashed, it's not an accident but an intentional attempt to push the conflict to the international stage," Abhisit told reporters.

"It matches with Cambodia's strategy that the timing of each attack is linked to their goal of using the international stage (to protect Cambodian interests). We will defend our rights."

His Cambodian counterpart, Hun Sen, said on Wednesday there was a need to build trust and agree to a ceasefire but appeared to ridicule Thai troops, which he said were "shooting because they are afraid of ghosts".

Exactly why the two countries are in conflict and which side fired first remain a mystery but many analysts say there are political forces on either side that stand to gain domestically if the crisis continues.

At the centre of the latest flare-up are two 12th-Century stone-walled Hindu temples, Ta Moan and Ta Krabey, in a heavily mined jungle area that both sides claim.



DECADES-OLD ROW

The dispute over jurisdiction has been ongoing since the 1950s, when colonial power France pulled out of Cambodia. Another, more significant temple, Preah Vihear, was awarded to Cambodia in 1962 by the International Court of Justice.

Thailand insists it accepts Cambodia's jurisdiction of the 11th Century temple but is challenging its listing of the ruins as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and its management plans, because the ICJ did not rule on the 4.6 sq km (1.8 sq miles) of land around it.

Late last week, Cambodia asked the ICJ to settle the Preah Vihear issue by giving an explanation for a judgment it delivered half a century ago.

However, the request sent by Cambodia, written in French and posted on the ICJ's website on Tuesday, could become a bone of contention.

Cambodia told the ICJ that Thailand had orchestrated "serious armed incidents" between April 22 and 26, but the letter, signed by Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, was dated April 20.

It was not immediately clear if the date entered by Hor Namhong was a mistake.

Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong declined to comment specifically on the letter.

"The accusation by Thailand that Cambodia planned to start the fighting has no legal basis," he said.

A senior Thai Foreign Ministry official, who requested anonymity, said the letter proved the fighting had been "masterfully orchestrated" by Cambodia.

Both sides have called for calm and no meeting has yet been arranged between the two countries' leaders on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit starting on Saturday.

As chair of ASEAN, Indonesia intervened in February, at the request of the United Nations Security Council, when the conflict first flared from Feb 4-7, killing 11 troops.

Both sides agreed to allow 15 unarmed Indonesian military observers to be stationed on either side of the border to monitor the fragile peace agreement, but the plan has yet to be put in place.

Analysts say the breaching of the ceasefire on April 22 could weigh heavy on ASEAN's plans to form a regional community by 2015 and bloc Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan has urged an immediate ceasefire to prevent damage to its reputation. (Additional reporting by Ambika Ahuja and Phnom Penh bureau; Editing by Nick Macfie)
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Head of legal team to ICJ named

Veerachai Palasai, Thai ambassador to the Hague and former director-general of the Treaties and Legal Affairs Department, has been appointed head of the legal team to defend Thailand at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the Preah Vihear temple issue, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said on Wednesday.

Mr Kasit said this on his return from Geneva, Switzerland, where he met three foreign lawyers to discuss preparedness for the defence in the ICJ.

An addition to Mr Veerachai, Ithiporn Boonprakong, director-general of the Treaties and Legal Affairs Department, legal experts and historians of the Foreign Ministry will be responsible for compiling information and studying the petition filed by Cambodia with the ICJ.

Cambodia is seeking the ICJ's interpretation of its 1962 judgement on the Preah Vihear temple and accuses Thailand of aggression in attempts to claim Cambodian territory.

Mr Kasit said the ICJ has arranged for Thailand and Cambodia to attend a hearing of the ICJ on May 30-31.

Mr Veerachai will represent Thailand at this hearing. It is expected each side will take three to four hours making its points to the court.

Both countries will present their prepared documents to the court on this occasion.

The ICJ is expected to take four to five months considering the case, he said. He expected a decision early next year.
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Julie spotted in Siame Reap

International superstar Angelina Jolie was spotted at Siem Reap airport yesterday after an advertisement shoot for luxury brand Luis Vuitton reportedly finished.


Angelina Julie arrived by helicopet at Siam Reap international
 Airport following a day trip to Battambang Province yesterday

Accompanied by her children, including adopted Cambodian-born son Maddox, Jolie was seen exiting a helicopter late in the afternoon.

A small number of tourists watched on – before security guards brought out screens to shield the family – as the group was whisked away in a mini-van and two four-wheeled drives, complete with darkened windows.

The drivers were wearing uniforms of Siem Reap’s exclusive Amansara hotel.

A well-placed source said Jolie had flown from Siem Reap to Battambang province in the morning and returned later that day.

In 2003, the mega-star founded an NGO called the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation, which operates out of Battambang province. It tackles conservation, education and infrastructure projects in the area.

Yesterday, the foundation’s human resources manager said he could not comment on Jolie as he had been on leave.

The star of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is thought to have arrived in Cambodia on Saturday for filming after a production team scouted out potential locations.

An advert was shot on the banks of a Siem Reap river while an interview for Louis Vuitton was also filmed, said a source close to the shoot who wished to remain anonymous.

Khmer Mekong Films provided the back-up production for the shoot.

The filming was yesterday hailed as a boon for the Kingdom’s film production sector by Cedric Eloy, chief economic officer of the Cambodian Film Commission. “This shows that Cambodia is a safe place to shoot movies,” he said. “In some quarters it still has the image of a place with violence, but projects like this will help to change the image.

“We’ve had six feature films shot in Cambodia in the last six months, and the film industry is opening Cambodia up to the world,” he added.


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