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Thursday, April 08, 2010

ASEAN Protocol On Settling Inter-Regional Disputes

(RTTNews) - A protocol for resolving regional disputes among Association Of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries has been signed at its ongoing summit in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi, an ASEAN news release said on Thursday.

The protocol would help its transformation into a "rules-based organization," the release said.

Even though Foreign Ministers from the 10-member bloc signed the protocol, its terms of reference has not yet been finalised.

The mechanism could play a pivotal role in solving the long running dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over an area located near Preah Vihear temple situated in northern Cambodia near the border with Thailand.

Maps dating back to Cambodia's colonial days under French rule showed the temple, built mainly by rulers from the famous Khmer empire in the 11th and 12th century, as belonging to Cambodia but this was later disputed by Thailand on the grounds that it was not official and therefore invalid.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1962 ruled that the temple was indeed situated on Cambodian territory, but much of the surrounding land was claimed by Thailand leaving Cambodia with access only up a steep hillside.

In 2001, Thai troops blocked access to the temple for more than a year in a dispute over polluted water at the temple site and tensions rose again in 2008 following Cambodia's bid to get the temple listed as a World Heritage Site.

Last year, at least two Thai soldiers were killed and seven wounded in skirmishes between troops across the disputed border.

Besides the protocol would be useful in settling maritime disputes among ASEAN member countries. However, it is unlikely to get involved in cases relating to internal disputes of member states.

This is probably the reason why despite Vietnam's best efforts, ASEAN is unwilling to mediate in the internal dispute between Hanoi and Beijing over maritime territory in the South China sea.

China has also objected to the ASEAN being party to the dispute and insists that separate talks be held with each of the ASEAN member countries.

by RTT Staff Writer
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