Hun Sen Calls Again for Asean Border Monitors

Over Thai objections, Prime Min-ister Hun Sen yesterday continued the government’s call on Asean to send observers to a disputed borderline where Thai and Cambodian troops traded deadly fire earlier this month.

Asean’s foreign ministers are to hold a summit in Jakarta on Tues­day to discuss the border fighting, which erupted Feb 4 and took military and civilian lives on both sides.

Speaking to reporters at his office after a meeting with visiting Thai Deputy Prime Minister Trairong Su­wankiri, the premier laid out a four-point plan for Jakarta that included asking Asean to witness the signing of a permanent cease-fire between the sparring neighbors.

“First, Cambodia and Thailand should agree to a permanent cease-fire,” Mr Hun Sen said yesterday. “Cambodia will ask for the signatures of the foreign ministers…with Asean as a witness.”

The prime minister said Cambo­dia would also ask Thailand to join it in keeping troop positions where they are and in arranging sporting matches between the troops to help ease tensions.

“Fourth, to effectively maintain the cease-fire, both sides should propose that Asean countries send monitors to observe the cease-fire,” he said.

“We have to stay under the light together,” he added. “Whether it’s the UN, Asean, whoever, it doesn’t matter. A third person just needs to be there.”

The premier conceded that Thai­land would not like the idea. Bang­kok has insisted on settling the dispute with no outside mediation.

Yesterday, The Bangkok Post re­ported that Chavanond Intar­a­k­o­malyasut, secretary to Thai Fo­reign Minister Kasit Piromya, had said Cam­bodia’s call for Asean obs­er­vers would be “shot down” in Jakarta.

At a meeting in New York on Mon­day, the UN Security Council called on Asean to help settle the dispute. Asean officials in Jakarta could not be reached yesterday and did not reply to e-mails for comment.

On Wednesday, Bangkok and Phnom Penh accused each other of breaking a temporary cease-fire in place since Feb 7, and rejected the other’s claim.

Yesterday, Defense Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Chhum Sucheat said commanders on either side met Wednesday to re-establish their temporary cease-fire and that the following night passed without incident.

“Last night and today, the situation was quiet at the border. There was no more firing,” he said.

Lt Gen Sucheat also rejected ru­mors that the Thai army had been bolstering its presence along its land and maritime borders with Cambo­dia across from Koh Kong province.

Provincial officials say ru­mors have caused about a third of residents to flee their homes for shel­ter further inland, bringing several local schools and markets to a halt.

Ing Kong Chet, provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho, said activity has started to pick up again.

“People are returning to their nor­mal lives. Vendors are starting their businesses again,” he said. “But the people who left the pro-vince are not returning yet.”

Mr Hun Sen also said yesterday that a certain inmate “studying at Prey Sar university,” an apparently mocking reference to Thai nationalist Veera Somkwamkid, who is currently in Prey Sar Prison, would not be receiving a Royal Pardon any time soon.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced Mr Veera to eight years in prison on Feb 1 after convicting him of espionage and entering Cambodia illegally.

“If you want to come and ask for a pardon, I’m sorry, no way,” the premier said. “You have to stay in jail for at least two-thirds of your term, and then I will think about it.”

 

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