Hun Sen Unveils Simultaneous Withdrawal Plan

Chides Thai prime minister for ‘childish’ approach to issue

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday reiterated Cambodia’s willingness to comply with a UN court-ordered withdrawal of troops from around Preah Vihear temple, but blasted outgoing Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva for his insistence that Cambodia leave the disputed territory first.

“He said Cambodia supports first, so Cambodia has to withdraw troops first, too…. This is a childish wording, and it’s not a game,” Mr Hun Sen said.

The prime minister’s statement served to rebuff conditions reportedly set forth Thursday by Thai­land’s outgoing premier that Indonesian observers could not go into the newly-created demilitarized zone before Cambodian troops left.

Instead, Mr Hun Sen suggested yesterday that both countries should pull out simultaneously. That proposal, along with a seven-point draft compliance agreement, was drawn up by Cambodian officials this week to address how best to fulfill the International Court of Justice’s order to withdraw troops.

“On Thursday, we sent the draft agreement to Thailand, Indonesia, The Hague, and the United Nations Security Council,” the premier said during a press conference to explain Cambodia’s stance the ICJ ruling. Addressing his comments to Mr Abhisit, the premier said he “would welcome any comments, any ideas. Take our draft for consideration and prepare to talk.”

During the two-and-a-half hour press conference held Friday at his office, Mr Hun Sen repeatedly underscored Cambodia’s readiness to enforce the ICJ’s ruling and work in cooperation with Indonesian observer teams in the newly-drawn demilitarized zone.

On Monday, the ICJ ordered both Cambodia and Thailand to withdraw troops immediately and drew a demilitarized zone around the disputed border territory. Indonesian observers are meant to enter the area, but tensions over the order in which each country’s troops leave has resulted in a deadlock.

In Cambodia’s draft agreement, copies of which were handed out to the press, the countries would agree to draw a timetable for immediate withdrawal of military personnel and request “the speedy assignment and dispatch of the Indonesian observer teams.” Cambodia, additionally, agrees to report to the ICJ all non-military activity in the demilitarized zone in order to ensure “free access to the Temple of Preah Vihear.”

Submission of the draft to the myriad parties involved, said Mr Hun Sen, is in part intended to highlight the good intentions of Cambodia as compared with Thailand.

In his briefing yesterday, Mr Hun Sen also called for more observers than originally proposed, noting that the demilitarized zone is larger than initially planned.

“The interest is no bloodshed in the area. If there were anything to happen, then it would be an Indonesia responsibility,” he said. “Previous term of reference would not apply any more.”

At times, Mr Hun Sen used the rare press briefing as a chance to get in some final shots at the outgoing Thai premier. In addition to calling Mr Abhisit’s wording “childish,” the premier warned that his bad behavior could create a poor legacy for the incoming Thai government.

“I hope that as the prime minister prepares to leave the post, [he] should limit his words to be appropriate before he mentions anything. Thus, it would not cause disturbance to the new government that prepares to enter the post.”


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