Hun Sen Points to Bilateral Solution Over Temple

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday paved the way for possible discussions with Thailand regarding the disputed border territory near Preah Vihear temple, saying that the conflict between the two countries would be better solved bilaterally.

Speaking at a university graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh yesterday morning, Mr Hun Sen said it did not matter which country was the winner or loser out of this week’s Unesco World Heritage Committee meeting in Brazil.

Both countries signed a “compromise draft decision” at the meeting last Thursday that acknowledged Cambodia’s work conserving the World Heritage-listed temple and noted that the committee would discuss Cambodia’s temple management plan at next year’s meeting in Bahrain.

Mr Hun Sen said yesterday that dialogue was the way forward for the two countries. “We will use dialogue to solve the rest of the problem,” he said. “I don’t want winning or losing-it is better that we have the win together in solving the problem.”

The premier said that Cambodia will move forward with its steps to conserve the temple, and that people should not be worried about any prospect of a military conflict with Thailand.

“We will keep working on our job that we have been doing since 2008, 2009 and 2010, including the renovation of the stairway up to the temple and following the advice of Unesco as to what we need to conserve,” Mr Hun Sen said.

“Cambodia has already committed that there is no need to go into other people’s land. Please, people along the border and in the [Cambodia’s] center, don’t worry about fighting at the border.”

Mr Hun Sen’s push for a diplomatic solution to the border dispute near the temple came yesterday as Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said he wanted to meet with the Cambodian premier.

In a statement released by the Thai government’s public relations department, Mr Suthep said he was willing to travel to Cambodia to speak face-to-face with Mr Hun Sen. “Both Thailand and Cambodia should make understanding and seek mutual agreements in order to solve the ongoing dispute on…the overlapping area around the Hindu temple,” Mr Suthep said in the statement.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said yesterday that it was too early to say whether Mr Hun Sen would meet Mr Suthep because an official request had not yet been made to Cambodia, but added that “any dialogue is welcome.”

The Thai government’s announcement on Tuesday that it would compete with Cambodia to be the host of the 2012 World Heritage Committee meeting, however, drew Mr Siphan’s ire.

“Cambodia has more advantage than Thailand because we comply with the World Heritage Committee, whereas Thailand insults the committee by using it for its own interests,” Mr Siphan said, adding that the committee would have the final say on the matter.


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