The government said yesterday that it had agreed to a firm date for its next Joint Border Commission meeting with Thailand and dropped a key condition that has kept the meetings on hold for almost two years.
But Jakarta, the tentative host, said a date for the meeting had not been set because it was still waiting for word from Bangkok.
Should the meet materialize, it would be the first since April 2009. The neighbors formed the JBC in 2008 to demarcate the border but deadly fighting, including four days of battle between Thailand and Cambodian beginning Feb 4 at Preah Vihear temple, has since broken out repeatedly.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said Foreign Minister Hor Namhong had written to his Indonesian counterpart, Marty Natalegawa, yesterday morning to say Cambodia had agreed to meet Thailand for a new round of the long-delayed border talks on March 24 and 25 in Bogor, just outside Jakarta.
The letter followed a meeting between Mr Natalegawa and Cambodia’s ambassador in Jakarta the day before.
Mr Kuong said Cambodia had also, for the first time, dropped its demand that the Thai Parliament approve minutes from the JBC’s last three meetings before it agreed to convene again.
However, Mr Kuong said that Cambodia stood by its demand that Indonesia sit in on the meeting, a condition that may irritate Thailand, which has so far insisted on settling the border dispute bilaterally.
“The meeting cannot be conducted if one of the three parties is missing, including Indonesia,” he said.
As the current chair of Asean, which counts both Cambodia and Thailand as members, Indonesia has spearheaded efforts to reconcile the two sides.
The UN Security Council blessed the regional mediation efforts last month.
Whether Thailand plays along is another matter. It has rejected all talk of third-party mediation and pushed for the JBC to reconvene on its side of the border.
“Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong is hopeful his Thai counterpart will agree to go” to Indonesia, Mr Kuong said yesterday.
Michael Tene, spokesman for Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry, said that only Cambodia had agreed to the meeting thus far and said any date was still tentative.
“The date has not been decided yet…. That was only one of the dates that have been proposed,” he said.
But he confirmed that Cambodia was prepared to meet.
“Cambodia is ready to have the meeting,” he said. As for Thailand, “we are still waiting for the response.”
Mr Tene said Jakarta was also waiting on Thailand for word about hosting Indonesian observers.
At a Feb 22 meeting of Asean foreign ministers in Jakarta, Cambodia and Thailand agreed to host the observers on either side of the disputed border to monitor their latest unofficial cease-fire.
Though all sides are keeping Indonesia’s proposed terms confidential, Cambodia has agreed to all 13, while Thailand has held out. According to Thai media, army officials are reluctant to allow the observers full access around the border.
Mr Tene declined to comment on its reasons but confirmed that Thailand had yet to approve the terms.
“They have agreed in principle but they have yet to submit…a detailed response,” he said.
Thai officials in Bangkok did not reply to requests for comment yesterday. Thai Ambassador Prasas Prasasvinitchai declined to speak with a reporter.