Manet Meets Thais Ahead of Asean Parley

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s son, deputy RCAF infantry commander Major General Hun Manet, led a delegation of Cambodian officers on Saturday in a three-hour meeting with Thai military officials in Oddar Meanchey province, according to a Cambodian official present.

Cambodian and Thai officials re­portedly signed a cease-fire deal to halt hostilities only days after accusing each other of breaking an agree­­ment from Feb 7.

Cambodian officials could not confirm yesterday that a new cease-fire was in place.

“The meeting lasted about three hours with the Thai commanders,” said RCAF Lieutenant Colonel Touch Ra, chief of Cambodian-Thai relations at the Choam-Sangam bor­der crossing. Thai army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Daopong Rattanasuwan led the Thai delegation, Lt Col Ra said, adding that he had stood outside the meeting and could not relate its contents.

The reported cease-fire came be­fore Tuesday’s meeting of Asean foreign ministers in Jakarta, where Cam­bodia hopes to convince Thai­land to join it in permanent cease-fire and to have Asean agree to send ob­servers.

The Bangkok Post reported yesterday that delegations from Cam­bo-dia and Thailand signed the deal Sat­urday at a nearby border crossing.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong yesterday said he could not confirm the news and referred questions to the Defense Ministry. De­fense Minister Tea Banh declined comment. Other military officials also declined to speak, referring questions to Maj Gen Manet, who could not be reached.

RCAF Brigadier General Yim Pim, commander, 8th Brigade, 3rd Division, just west of the temple, said only that conditions at the border were “stable.”

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan cast doubt on the new cease-fire report.

“I heard they had talks between high-level military officials there, but nothing official has been reported,” he said. For any new agreement be­tween the neighbors to take ef­fect, he added, “there would have to be a third party involved.”

Cambodia has been asking for third-party mediation since four straight days of deadly fighting broke out around the temple on Feb 4 and wants Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, currently representing the Asean presidency, to be a witness to any ceasefire deal reached in Jakarta.

Thailand has countered by insisting that any settlement with Cam­bodia must be reached bilaterally and that any attempt to send Asean observers to the border would be “shot down.”

The UN Security Council in New York a week ago endorsed both bilateral talks and regional mediation.

In a statement on Friday, the gov­­ernment confirmed Foreign Minister Hor Namhong’s plans to attend the meeting in Jakarta on Tuesday.

On the same day, the government’s National Committee for World Heritage issued a statement asking former Unesco director-general Koichiro Matsuura to visit Preah Vihear temple, a World Her­itage Site since 2008, when he comes to Cambodia.

Unesco director-general Irina Bokova appointed Mr Matsuura as the UN heritage body’s special envoy in the border dispute with a mission to meet with officials in Bangkok and Phnom Penh.

Ms Bokova has also announced plans to send a separate Unesco mission to visit the 11th-century temple, which appeared scarred after this month’s fighting but has suffered no immediate structural damage.

Over Thailand’s objections, the World Heritage Committee is scheduled to consider Cambodia’s management plan for the temple during its next annual meeting in June. Thailand wants the committee to hold off on approving the plan, which it believes should include Thailand, until the border has been fully demarcated.

 

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