Talks fail to resolve dispute …Thai stalts ASEAN spirit
PPPost/ 30 April 2009
By Sam Rith
Meetings between Thai and Cambodian defence ministers yield some agreements but do not solve border standoff at Preah Vihear temple.
The sixth annual set of talks between Thai and Cambodian defence ministers ended midday Wednesday in Siem Reap, with agreement on some issues including demarcating their shared border, but no breakthrough on the crucial issue of troop withdrawals from around the contested Preah Vihear temple.
Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh and his Thai counterpart Prawit Wongsuwan hailed progress made during the meeting, citing agreements to use the Joint Border Commission to find border markers and continue demarcating the neighbouring countries’ shared frontier and a decision to resolve overlapping claims in the Gulf of Thailand through existing mechanisms.
“The two sides confirmed that the border issue should be resolved based on the [Memorandum of Understanding] on measuring and demarcating made on June 14, 2000,” said a joint statement issued on Wednesday after the meeting, referring to a breakthrough agreement eight years ago.
But solving the standoff around the 11th-century temple will take more time, Tea Banh said.
At least seven Thai and Cambodian troops have been killed in recent months in sporadic clashes between the neighbouring countries on disputed land around Preah Vihear temple.
“The issue of troop pullback … from the area near Preah Vihear temple depends on the negotiation related to border demarcation that has not been agreed to yet,” Prawit told reporters in a joint press conference, adding that he himself was struggling to get up to speed on the issue, having only been defence minister for about four months.
Troop withdrawals will have to wait until demarcation has been completed to both countries’ satisfaction, he added.
Tea Banh said that both countries were using all means possible to resolve the border dispute.
Troops from the two countries have been in a border standoff since tensions flared last July, when the temple was awarded United Nations World Heritage status.
Ownership of the temple was awarded to Cambodia in 1962, but the two countries are in dispute over 5 square kilometres of land around it that have yet to be demarcated.