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Monday, May 09, 2011

Cambodia rejects Thai temple demands

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong rejected a Thai demand to withdraw troops from an 11th-century Khmer temple at the disputed border, saying Bangkok was not sincere about peace.

'We never can withdraw our troops from our own territory. That should be very clear,' Hor Namhong told reporters on Friday after a meeting in Jakarta with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa.

The Indonesians are trying to broker a ceasefire and the deployment of neutral military observers to the flashpoint area on the Thai-Cambodia border where some 18 people have died in fighting in recent months.

The issue is likely to be discussed at a summit of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders in Jakarta starting on Saturday.

Both countries have accused each other of sparking the violence, which centres on territory surrounding the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, the most celebrated example of ancient Khmer architecture outside Cambodia's Angkor.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia but both countries claim ownership of a 4.6 square kilometre surrounding area. The temple was granted UN World Heritage status in 2008.

Cambodia has previously denied it has troops stationed at Preah Vihear itself, although it has soldiers in the contested area.

The neighbours agreed in late February to allow Indonesian observers near Preah Vihear, but Thailand has been dragging its heals on their deployment as fighting continues.

'The problem is the willingness of Thailand to accept the observers or not, that is the real problem,' Hor Namhong said.

Indonesia holds the current chair of ASEAN and has been trying to use its position to broker an end to the hostilities, which are undermining ASEAN's ambitions to create a closely integrated community by 2015.

Natalegawa said Cambodia had agreed to the terms of the observer mission but Thailand was insisting on the withdrawal of Cambodia's troops from the temple.

'We're ready (to send observers) but Thailand is saying that before the deployment of observers can be made, they require the redeployment of Cambodian troops out of the temple,' he said.

'This issue is not governed in the terms of reference. It's outside the terms of reference proper. This is where we are now.'

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for a ceasefire and said the neighbours should launch 'serious dialogue' to resolve the dispute, which temporarily displaced about 85,000 people.
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Gen Prawit: Troop withdrawal first

Thai Siamese crocodile Gen. Prawit cried for Khmer Troops to withdraw from Khmer Preah Vihea land.  He forgot that he is living on Khmer land.

Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon has supported Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's demand that Cambodia withdraw its troops from the 4.6 square kilometre disputed area around Preah Vihear before Indonesia sends its observers there.

"The prime minister has spoken clearly about this and the armed forces are of the same opinion," Gen Prawit said on Monday.

"Cambodian soldiers must withdraw from the disputed area before any other steps can be taken."

Gen Prawit said that there should be a meeting of the General Border Committee (GBC) first, to explore ways of enabling Thai and Cambodian troops to both stay in place before an agreed terms of reference is signed to allowed the Indonesian observers into the disputed area.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong were today due to meet in Jakarta to try and find a way out after the two sides remained deadlocked because Cambodia insisted in not withdrawing the troops from the disputed area, which it terms its "own territory", as demanded by Thailand.

Gen Prawit said he hoped the two sides could finally reach a common ground.

A Defence Ministry source said Gen Prawit will attend the Asean Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM) in Indonesia on May 18-21.

He is expected to discuss with Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh preparations for the 8th GBC meeting, even though Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen wants Thailand to allow Indonesian observers into the disputed area before proceeding with bilateral meetings, said the source.
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