Hun Sen Says Border May Need UN ‘Buffer Zone’

Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday that UN peacekeepers might be re­quired to prevent conflict with Thai­land at Preah Vihear temple as fighting continued for a fourth day.

Rejecting bilateral talks—which Thailand has said it pre­fers—because “both parties won’t listen to each other,” Mr Hun Sen accused Thailand of threatening regional stability in the fighting that has killed an unknown number on both sides and reportedly damaged the 11th-century World Heritage Site.

“Now we can ask soldiers from the UN to come, since we have sent our soldiers to the Sudan and Chad,” he said yesterday morning at a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh as fighting continued.

“Now we ask the UN to set up a buffer zone to avoid fighting,” he said.

“You want to shoot the temple. Now I insist the chief and members of UN Security Council hold a meeting to prevent the spreading of the fight, which is a threat to security of Southeast Asia.”

He also called for immediate in­tervention from Asean, saying a lack of action would weaken th regional body Asean.

In a statement on Sunday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s office said that the UN “remains at [Cambodia’s and Thailand’s] disposal to assist in these peaceful efforts.”

Mr Ban “also calls on them to continue their efforts to finding a lasting solution to their dispute through established mechanisms and arrangements and a spirit of dialogue and good neighborly relations,” according to the statement.

Like Mr Hun Sen, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has also written to the UN Security Coun­cil and has accused Cambodia of starting the fighting by opening fire on a Thai military post on Friday and Sunday.

“Thai soldiers had no choice but to exercise the inherent right of self-defense,” Mr Abhisit said, according to Reuters.

His comments come as pressure mounts from royalist “yellow shirts” for Mr Abhisit to step down.

Mr Hun Sen rejected Mr Ab­hisit’s comments yesterday.

“There is too much talk from the Thai prime minister lately. And some Thai leaders, especially, Prime Minister Abhisit, accuse Cambodia of shooting first and invading Thailand,” he said.

“Thai doesn’t accept, and we also don’t accept.”

Mr Hun Sen laid open the possibility of further legal action in international courts.

“We have to go hand in hand [with the Thais] to UN Security Council to stop the dispute, then we have to hold hands and walk to The Hague court or the In­ternational Court of Justice or any kind of international mechanism, otherwise the problem is not finished,” he said.

He also said that the release of the Thai soldier captured on Fri­day depended on negotiations be­tween the two countries.

“We apply the laws of war. The hostage is not punished. The hostage will be treated well and will be released after the agreement on both side is signed,” he said.

“If you don’t write the letter to ask for him, I don’t know whom I should hand him to. So we keep him here. In the future, if he wants to be Khmer, I will let him be Khmer. This is one thing proving that you invaded me,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Tim Sturrock)

 

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