Cambodia on Saturday formally requested Asean’s assistance to help solve its long-running border conflict with Thailand over disputed territory near World Heritage-listed Preah Vihear temple.
In a letter sent to Pham Gia Khiem, the Foreign Minister of Vietnam, which currently chairs Asean, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said bilateral negotiations over the disputed territory had come to a halt.
The dispute involves a 4.6-square-kilometer parcel of land near Preah Vihear temple that Thailand claims is inside its border. Cambodia rejects Thailand’s claims to the territory and the disagreement between the two nations has led to several armed clashes since 2008. Bilateral border talks have yet to find a solution to the issue.
Mr Namhong’s letter said Thailand’s claim to the territory was based on its own “secret and unilaterally drawn map.” The letter went on to say that while Cambodia’s desire was to solve the issue bilaterally, Thailand had prevented the joint border commission from moving forward with its agenda.
“As the current stalemate has extinguished any hope on further bilateral negotiations and in order to avoid and large scale armed conflict…I seek Your Excellency’s assistance…to mediate on the matter under the Asean framework,” Mr Namhong’s letter said.
Thailand has previously sought to prevent Asean mediation after Cambodia moved to discuss the matter at an Asean summit in October. At the time, Thailand said the two countries should “avoid raising bilateral issues within the Asean framework.”
A Thai government statement said yesterday that Thailand wanted the dispute solved within a bilateral framework.
In the statement, Buranaj Smutharaks, a spokesman for the Democrat Party, the senior partner in the Thai governing coalition, said that the involvement of a third party like Asean or the UN would “not do any good” and questioned why Cambodia was seeking a multilateral solution.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said yesterday that Cambodia was tired of waiting for the Thai Parliament to ratify the reports of previous joint border commission meetings between the two nations.
“The Thai Parliament needs to show they are willing to approve” the work of the border committee, Mr Siphan said. “We are seeking a diplomatic resolution with the assistance” of Asean.