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Sunday, May 08, 2011

PMs' face-to-face meet fails to resolve conflict

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation

PM Abhisit proposed discussing the troop withdrawal in a military-run General Border Committee (GBC) meeting, but Cambodia's Hun Sen disagreed, saying the GBC meet would not be convened before a Thai letter accepting the Indonesian observers' terms of reference had been submitted.

A tripartite meeting called by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to setฌtle the border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia yesterday made no progress as the conflicting countries remained extremely indifฌferent.

Indonesia's plan to dispatch its observers to the borderdisputed area adjacent to the Preah Vihear temple has not materialised as Thailand insists it would not sign a letter of acceptance to the Indonesian observers' term of reference (TOR) unless Cambodia withdrew its troops from the Hindu temple and its vicinฌity.

Cambodia rejected the condition- saying it would not withdraw troops from its own territory.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva proposed to discuss the troop withฌdrawal in a militaryrun General Border Committee (GBC) meeting - but his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen disagreed, saying the GBC meetฌing would not be convened before the Thai letter of acceptance to the TOR was formally submitted to Indonesia.

"Once Thailand has signed the TOR, the meeting of the GBC could start immediately," Hun Sen told a press conference on the sideline of the Asean summit.

Seeking a solution

As the issue came into deadlock, Indonesian President Yudhoyono, who is facilitating the peace process, recommended foreign ministers of the two nations stay one more day in Jakarta to work with Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa and seek a solution. The ministers are in Indonesia for an Asean summit meeting which ended yesterday.

The border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia came to the attention of Asean following a major clash in February at the Preah Vihear temple. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC), as requested by Phnom Penh, entrusted Asean to implement a permanent ceasefire.

The armed conflict extended to other areas near Ta Mouan Thom and Ta Kwai temple in Surin in late April. The latest clash which caused more casualties prompted Cambodia's move to have the International Court of Justice (ICJ) interpret the scope and meaning of the 1962 ruling on the Preah Vihear case.

Prime Minister Abhisit charged Cambodia with igniting the military conflict to internationalise the issue, although the two countries already had many bilateral mechanisms, including the GBC, to settle the conflict.

Abhisit rejected Cambodian preฌmier Hun Sen's accusation of being an obstacle to a peaceful solution, saying it was the government in Phnom Penh that had made the issue more complicated, calling for differฌent solutions to the problem.

Cambodia called for a third party from international organisations to intervene in the Preah Vihear case but was willing to settle the conflict in areas of Ta Mouan bilaterally.

'Two areas, two approaches'

"Prime Minister Hun Sen reiterฌated two areas needing different approaches which I find hard to understand as people along the borฌder areas need equal attention and long lasting solutions," Abhisit said in another press conference.

Thailand's position was consisฌtent in having a longlasting soluฌtion and prevent further conflict, he said.

Hun Sen defended his idea that a third party was needed for the Preah Vihear, as the issue had already been submitted to the UN and the Asean had a UN mandate to participate.

"We necessarily have to respect the role of Asean, we cannot talk together secretly or quietly, he said.

"The acceptance of Indonesian observers had been agreed in the meeting of Asean foreign ministers in February and the TOR has been modified seven times already - and there were no demands for troop withdrawal and no demands for a GBC meeting before the signing of the letter of acceptance," he said.

Abhisit argued that the message of troop withdrawal had been conฌveyed to Indonesia at the beginning, not a new condition, since the presฌence of troops at the temple and in its vicinity is against the spirit of the Hague convention and world herฌitage guidelines.

"Cambodia cannot deny this conฌdition as its request to ICJ also wantฌed to have the withdrawal of Thai troops from the temple. So I find it hard to understand why Cambodia cannot accept there is a need for disฌcussion for both sides to talk about troop withdrawal from sensitive areas," Abhisit said.
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Thai PM: Cambodian troops must leave border to solve disput

JAKARTA, INDONESIA (BNO NEWS) — Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Sunday said the border conflict cannot be solved if Cambodian troops remain at the ancient Preah Vihear temple, MCOT Online reported.

“I think the problem lies in Cambodia’s refusal to withdraw its troops from the disputed area around Preah Vihear temple,” Vejjajiva said.

Prime Minister Vejjajiva held talks with his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta on the sidelines of the two-day summit of 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The one-hour meeting, also attended by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the host of the ASEAN summit, ended without progress, as both ministers are meeting again on Monday.

Prime Minister Vejjajiva said Cambodia’s Hun Sen wants Thailand to sign an agreement allowing Indonesian observers to be posted at the disputed border area before bilateral talks could start. He added that Cambodia wants to ask the International Court of Justice for “temporary protection” of the Preah Vihear temple by demanding the withdrawal of Thai troops.

Both Cambodia and Thailand claim the 4.6 square kilometer area near the ancient Preah Vihear temple on their shared border, which has never been formally established. Cambodia requested Indonesian observers to mediate in the conflict but Thailand denied.

Tensions first escalated between the two countries in July 2008 following the build-up of military forces near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple. The United Nations Security Council urged both sides to establish a permanent ceasefire after at least 10 people were killed.

Clashes resumed in February as both nations claim the lands surrounding the ancient Hindu Temple, which has been damaged due to the conflict. The Preah Vihear temple dates back to the 11th century and is located on the Cambodian side of the border.

In 2008, it was inscribed on the World Heritage List in recognition of its outstanding universal value. It is considered an outstanding example of Khmer architecture and consists of a complex of sanctuaries linked by pavements and staircases on an 800-meter-long axis.
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Thailand, Cambodia fail to resolve border dispute

By Kathy Quiano, CNN

Jakarta, Indonesia (CNN) -- Leaders from Thailand and Cambodia failed to reach an agreement Sunday in a meeting aimed at mediating a longstanding border conflict over an ancient Hindu temple.

No resolution was reached after Indonesia's president led a meeting between the neighboring nations on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit.

However, the leaders of both countries agreed that their foreign ministers would stay another day for more talks facilitated by Indonesia.

Fighting along the turbulent border has raged since last month. Clashes around the Preah Vihear temple prompted displacement of thousands on both sides and caused at least 20 deaths.

Indonesia, which chairs the summit this year, has been trying to mediate talks between Thailand and Cambodia.

Thailand has refused to agree to a proposal that would send Indonesian observers to the disputed territory, saying Cambodia must first withdraw its troops from the area. Cambodia has rejected that demand, insisting that a team of Indonesian observers needs to be sent to the region.

Both issues are important and should be addressed together, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told reporters Sunday

"Because, after all, the objective of what we are doing should not be about scoring political points -- thinking that there is some kind of technical victory on one issue and another -- but the ultimate objective must be to achieve lasting peace," he said.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said he hopes both countries "can come up with a more comprehensive solution, that's real and more effective. This is what ASEAN supports and what has been agreed upon by both Thailand and Cambodia."

Such security and territorial disputes overshadowed this year's summit, as the Asian leaders highlighted their efforts to achieve economic integration by 2015 and make the bloc more relevant and accessible to the 500 million people who live in its 10 member countries.

The organization also has made food and energy security top priorities. A recent report by the Asian Development Bank says rising international food prices could push 64.4 millions into poverty.

"We all agreed to conduct regional cooperation in facing the threat of food insufficiency and energy security," Yudhoyono said.
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Cambodia police 'beat striking garment workers'

Around 100 police moved in to disperse the mainly female crowd of demonstrators (AFP, Tang Chhin Sothy)

PHNOM PENH — Rights groups in Cambodia accused police of using disproportionate violence on Sunday, alleging they beat protesters at a rally by 2,000 garment workers in the capital.

Around 100 officers, armed with anti-riot shields, electric batons and guns, moved in to disperse the mainly female crowd that had formed a roadblock near Phnom Penh's airport, according to a joint statement by three rights groups.

It said the police fired warning shots into the air, deliberately drove motorbikes into the crowd, arrested two female workers and left another eight women in need of hospital treatment for their injuries.

But Phnom Penh police chief Touch Naruth said just one person was arrested, who is still in custody, and that he had seen just "one or two" of the crowd wounded, while nine of the security force were injured.

"The use of violence by police was totally disproportional to the workers? actions," said Am Sam Ath, monitoring supervisor at the LICADHO, the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights.

"The government should be supporting unions on the issue of expressive rights, rather than systemically cracking down on every form of rights activism," he said.

The statement was also issued by ADHOC, the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, and CLEC, the Community Legal Education Center.

The workers? dispute stems from the loss of jobs following a fire at a factory on March 30. The owner offered severance pay of $20 per year worked, which workers felt was insufficient, the statement said.

Sunday's action was intended to temporarily block the road to draw the attention of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who was scheduled to return from abroad via the airport, to the workers' situation.

"Ordinary Cambodians have no leverage, no voice and no legal recourse in situations like this. They are simply brushed aside," said Moeun Tola, Head of CLEC's labour programme.

"People are increasingly resorting to acts of desperation. Police violence is not the way to resolve the problem."

Naruth insisted police were "trying to help" the people, but said the crowd did not understand and started to throw rocks. "They cannot block the street on which all VIP people are travelling," he said.

Cambodia has come under fire from activists and observers in recent months for stifling free speech and cracking down on opponents after it introduced laws that increase the risk of arrest for voicing dissent.

In a crackdown last month on a Phnom Penh rally against mass evictions, 11 protesters were detained and others were beaten by baton-wielding police, according to rights groups.
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