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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Indonesian Observer Team Will Head to Cambodia-Thai Border

In the wake of recent developments related to the border dispute between Cambodia and Thailand, Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa said on Monday that Indonesia would continue the long-delayed plan to send an Indonesian observer team to the border.

“I can confirm this thanks to the positive outcome of discussions between the Thai and Cambodian governments,” Marty told the Jakarta Globe.

“Both countries reaffirmed their wish to have an Indonesian observer team in the 4.6-square kilometer provisional demilitarized zone as a follow up to the International Court of Justice ruling,” he added, referring to the disputed area surrounding the centuries-old Preah Vihear temple, to which both countries have claims.

The International Court of Justice defined in its July verdict a provisional demilitarized zone from which both countries must withdraw military personnel.

Marty said that Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia would try to update the terms of references on Indonesian observer team’s deployment “to reflect the latest development.”

“One possibility is that the Indonesian observer team will work jointly with the Thai and Cambodian teams in carrying out their mission. The team will have a new task to ensure compliance in observing the provisional demilitarized zone,” he said, adding that Thailand and Cambodia had agreed to set up a joint working group to further cooperation.

In the previously agreed terms of references, Indonesia would send two teams on both sides of the border, each with 15 unarmed observers to ensure the cease fire is maintained, but the plan has been dormant since.

“Both Thailand and Cambodia expect that Indonesia continues its role [in the dispute] even after Indonesia’s chairmanship of Asean [concludes],” Marty said.

Indonesia held the rotating chairmanship of Asean last year when the dispute was escalating, and with UN backing, it acted as mediator to the two countries. Cambodia now holds the 2012 chairmanship of the 10-member states regional bloc.

The plan to send Indonesian military observer teams resurfaced at a news conference on Monday, when Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro revealed it after a meeting with the ministry’s top officials and brass.

“We will send our soldiers to the border of Thailand and Cambodia. Our troops have been trained and they will be stationed on certain points,” Purnomo said, referring to the training programs at the newly established Indonesian Peace and Security Center in Sentul, West Java, where Indonesian soldiers are trained prior to joining UN peacekeeping forces.

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Adm. Agus Suhartono added that the country’s military observer team was ready for deployment as soon as the terms of references were updated. “We will see if the previously agreed 30 personnel for two teams will still be enough or we will need to figure out a new number,” Agus said.

“In principle, the Indonesian team will only be present as observer if we were asked and endorsed by the two countries in dispute,” he added.

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