Hun Sen Calls Temple Conflict A ‘Real War’

Describing the events at Preah Vihear temple as a “real war,” Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday called again on the UN Secur­ity Council or an­other third party to mediate in the conflict with Thailand, which has killed soldiers on both sides and damaged the temple.

Speaking at Chaktomuk Con­ference Hall in Phnom Penh, Mr Hun Sen said that he had used the term “war” to correct UN Sec­retary-General Ban Ki-moon during a telephone conversation yesterday.

“He kept using the term ‘armed clash.’ I said it is not. This is war,” the premier said, adding that cluster bombs and years of tensions had escalated the conflict to a “real war.”

Mr Hun Sen also said the term “armed clash” minimized the gra­vity of the conflict and served to lessen the apparent need for third-party intervention.

The UN Security Council this week reportedly said Asean mediation in the dispute was preferable. But Indonesian Foreign Min­­­ister Marty Natalegawa, representing the Asean presidency, ap­peared to say this week that a bi­lateral approach was preferable.

Rejecting Thailand’s call for bilateral talks, Mr Hun Sen said that the government would continue to pursue a third-party resolution in several venues if necessary, adding that armed conflict at the temple had prompted Norodom Sihanouk, then head of state, to complain to the International Court of Justice in 1959.

“We have already consumed more than two years to work on this now. We have to decide now to take legal action, and this time not only at The Hague international court but also the UN Security Council,” he said, adding that Asean mediation was still a possibility.

It was unclear what role Asean will play in negotiations.

“In the final analysis, the border issue between Thailand and Cambodia must and could only be addressed bilaterally. At the same time, there would always be space for Asean and members of Asean to support the bilateral effort,” Mr Natalegawa reportedly told reporters this week.

Even so, Mr Hun Sen said that Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and his Thai counterpart, Kasit Piromya, would meet with the current president of the UN Security Council.

In his speech, Mr Hun Sen also continued to blame Thailand for the conflict and said Cambodia could not trust bilateral negotiations with Thailand.

“The war was not created by Cambodia, but by Thailand. Thai prime minister has to be responsible for war crimes,” he said. “The shooting and destroying the temple and pagoda is a war crime.”

Mr Hun Sen also refuted Thai media reports that his son Major General Hun Manet had been injured in the fighting. “Besides insulting me, you insult Hun Manet,” he said.

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