Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Thai FM denies wanting Asean involvement

Cambodia's Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said yesterday he would seek help from Asean countries to resolve the dispute with Thailand over the Preah Vihear temple during the Asean Summit late this month in Hua Hin/Cha-am.

He said he agreed with his Thai counterpart Kasit Piromya to seek Asean approval for the establishment of a neutral mechanism to solve disputes among member countries.

However the Thai Foreign Ministry's deputy spokesman Thani Thongpakdi has denied Kasit ever proposed an Asean dispute settlement mechanism to solve the conflict over Preah Vihear.

The minister might have been quoted out of context in media reports, he said. The Thai government had reaffirmed its position that the border dispute must be solved bilaterally through the joint boundary commission.

Meanwhile, Thailand's chief of the joint boundary commission has warned political groups in the Kingdom not to politicise the border issue for their benefit, since it could jeopardise the boundary demarcation with Cambodia.

"The border issue is very sensitive. It could be a powerful political tool if used for political purposes," said Vasin Teeravechyan Co-chair of the Thai-Cambodia Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary (JBC).

"It is dangerous to politicise the issue for personal interests," he told a seminar at the Foreign Ministry yesterday.

The JBC was set up under a memorandum of understanding signed by Thailand and Cambodia in 2000 to demarcate the temple boundary. The disputed area is located near the Hindu temple where both sides claim the overlapping territory of 4.6 squares kilometres.

The issue has been politicised recently by the People's Alliance for Democracy and its New Politics Party to gain support from nationalists to attack the government.

The group alleged the JBC had cut a deal with Cambodia on provisional arrangements for the disputed area adjacent to the temple, and accepted a Cambodian map.

In fact, Vasin said, the JBC merely proposed Parliament's approval on three minutes from the JBC meetings, and a note on what the JBC had talked about that was neither a commitment nor an agreement.

The three minutes are pending Parliament's approval to enable the commission to move on.

Vasin said a map drawn originally by France was one of many documents included in the boundary negotiation. "Whether we like it or not, we cannot rule out the role of the map," he said.

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