Asean has begun consulting with member nations about whether the regional body should step in and help mediate negotiations between Cambodia and Thailand over their border dispute near Preah Vihear temple.
The Vietnamese government, as Asean’s current chair, released a brief statement late Tuesday night saying that it was considering Cambodia’s request that Asean act as a third party to the dispute.
“As Asean chair, Vietnam is actively consulting other Asean countries about the proposal that Asean mediates over the Preah Vihear dispute,” said the statement from Vietnam Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga.
“We hope that Thailand and Cambodia will settle the dispute over Preah Vihear temple through peaceful means and dialogues and in accordance with agreements between the two countries and with the international law, refraining from armed conflict and from acts that could affect Asean solidarity.”
Cambodia wrote to Vietnam’s Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem, Asean’s current chair, on Saturday, requesting that the regional body help mediate discussions about the border dispute. All of Asean’s foreign ministers were also sent a copy of the letter.
Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said outside a meeting with Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in Phnom Penh on Monday that Asean would wait to hear from its members before making a decision about whether to offer assistance.
Tensions between the two nations have flared recently over a 4.6-square-kilometer parcel of land near Cambodia’s World Heritage-listed Preah Vihear temple that Thailand claims is inside its border. Cambodia rejects Thailand’s claims to the territory.
Yesterday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said the statement from the Asean chair was a positive step towards achieving a resolution between the two countries.
“It is a positive thing that the Asean chair was willing to make a statement” about the possibility of a multilateral solution, Mr Kuong said, adding that the government had also received a copy of a letter sent by the Asean chair Vietnam to Thailand on Tuesday.
“The letter from His Excellency Pham Gia Khiem…was to seek Thailand’s view on how Asean should proceed with this issue,” Mr Kuong said, adding that the government would wait for the Thai response before commenting further on the matter.
Officials at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs could not be reached yesterday, but a statement made on Sunday made it clear that Thailand was not willing to engage in multilateral dialogue over the border dispute.
A statement released by the Thai government’s public relations department yesterday affirmed that position, saying that “there was no need for either party to ask an international body to step in to help solve the conflict.”