Thai Border Talks Stall, Official Says

Talks in Indonesia between Cambodia and Thailand over the ongoing dispute at Preah Vihear temple fell flat yesterday as Thai­land resisted Cambodian proposals for demarcating the border, a government official said.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that Cambodia had proposed se­lecting a company to take aerial photographs of the disputed border as well as sending a joint team to survey demarcation posts around the 11th-century temple.

But Thailand would not agree to either measure until its Par­liament passes the minutes of three previous Joint Boundary Commit­tee meetings, which are charged with negotiating a final settlement of the border dispute.

“Both countries did not reach an agreement on those issues be­cause the Thai side still insist these two issues won’t be implemented until the Thai Parliament endorses the three minutes,” Mr Kuong said. “When Thailand has conditions like this, it is a failure.”

Mr Kuong said the one positive thing to come out of the meeting was an agreement to open a new border crossing in Banteay Mean­­chey province. Though he said he had no further information on the matter.

Thani Thongphakdi, spokes­man for the Thai Foreign Ministry, said that officials from both sides had discussed “preparatory work” for the production of maps as well as the dispatch of officials to conduct a joint field survey demarcating the border with Thailand’s Surin and Si Saket provinces.

“From what I understand…the meeting has been held in a cordial atmosphere,” Mr Thani said in an e-mail yesterday afternoon without elaborating.

Thai media reported yesterday that talks between Cambodia and Thailand had gone smoothly and that both parties had agreed to select a company to take aerial photographs of the disputed borderline and send a joint team of surveyors to the area.

“The atmosphere [of the JBC meeting] was good,” said Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, according to the Bangkok Post.

In February Cambodia and Thailand agreed to reconvene the Joint Boundary Committee in Indonesia under Jakarta’s auspices.

Though Bangkok agreed to send delegates to the meeting, it has strived to downplay Indonesia’s role and, unlike Cambodia, did not send any military officials to the meeting.

According to Thai media reports, Thailand decided not to send military delegates to the planned General Border Commission, which was set to run simultaneously in order to discuss security issues along the border and the possibility of using independent Indonesian observers. The meeting did not take place.

Despite the two countries sitting down together for the first time since deadly fighting broke out between the two countries in February, the meeting produced little in the way of actual agreement.

The meeting also came as the UK-based Cluster Munitions Coalition on Wednesday released a statement saying that Sihasak Phuangketkeow, Thailand’s ambassador to Geneva, had admitted that Thai forces had fired cluster munitions during February’s fighting.

However, Mr Thongphakdi said on Thursday that the weapons fired were not actually cluster bombs.

Chhum Sucheat, spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, said that Cambodia’s delegation, which consisted of Defense Minister Tea Banh, Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong, and Major General Hun Manet, the son of Prime Minister Hun Sen, would all return to Cambodia today at around 11:30 am.

Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa – Indonesia is the current head of Asean – said yesterday that both parties had agreed to use diplomatic channels to resolve the dispute over the 4.6 square-km of land surrounding Preah Vihear temple.

“Today’s meeting represents yet another important step to underscore that diplomacy is the preferred means to solve problems,” Mr Natalegawa said according to the Jakarta Globe.

“This matter cannot be solved with one meeting,” he added.


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