Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cambodia to shun bilateral dialogue with Thailand

Foreign Ministry's letter to Thai Embassy says JBC mechanism cannot resolve border dispute

Cambodia has indefinitely postponed a boundary panel meeting with Thailand scheduled for later this month, shattering Thai hopes of settling the border conflict bilaterally.

The Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh received a letter from the Cambodian Foreign Ministry, saying Cambodia was not prepared for a bilateral meeting under the framework of the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Committee (JBC), according to a source.

In their letter dated Thursday, the Cambodian authorities said that they wanted the JBC meeting, earlier scheduled to take place in the last week of this month, to be postponed indefinitely, a source at the Thai Foreign Ministry revealed.

President of the Cambodian JBC, Var Kimhong, said yesterday that no meeting of the joint panel to define the land boundary would be held later this month, China's Xinhua news agency reported from Phnom Penh.

"There will be no meeting of the JBC later this month. Now, the bilateral mechanism cannot resolve the issue," he was quoted as saying, referring to the border conflict between the two countries.

Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, said in a telephone interview yesterday that the ministry had not received any official notification from Cambodian authorities that they would not attend the meeting.

He said Thailand insisted on settling the border dispute with Cambodia through talks and peaceful means.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said earlier yesterday that Thailand intended to take part in the JBC meeting in a bid to settle the dispute with Cambodia bilaterally. "We [both countries] have a mechanism to settle the problem, but Thailand and Cambodia have to work together to make the bilateral mechanism function," he said.

Cambodia has succeeded in internationalising the spat over the common border, particularly over the disputed area adjacent to the ancient Preah Vihear Temple. The border conflict led to a new round of armed clashes early this month. Both states accuse the other of firing first.

The United Nations Security Council is scheduled to hold a meeting behind closed doors tomorrow on the border clashes.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong, and Indonesia's Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, who has been trying to mediate in the dispute, are expected to speak to the council.

Spokesman for the ruling Democrat Party, Buranaj Smutharaks, said yesterday that Kasit would present facts to the Security Council regarding Cambodia's firing at civilian targets during the armed clashes.

The foreign minister and Thai JBC chief, Asda Jayanam, met senior officials of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) in Paris on Friday, according to the spokesman. Thailand presented photos showing Cambodian troops stationed at Preah Vihear to prove its claim that Cambodia had violated a treaty that bans the use of a World Heritage Site as a shield in a military conflict or for housing soldiers and storing weapons.

Meanwhile, the Cambodian newspaper Kampuchea Thmey Daily ran a caricature of Abhisit on the front page yesterday, depicting him as a war-mad dictator.

The caricature showed Abhisit with Hitler-style hair and moustache in military uniform with an armband featuring a Nazi swastika. The PM was shown holding an assault rifle and balancing on a rope above a fire.

It was the latest effort by the media in Cambodia to paint Thailand in a negative way. Earlier, some Cambodian radio stations reportedly claimed Thai troops intentionally fired at Preah Vihear temple. The Nation, Bangkok

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