Sunday, October 26, 2008

Asean ready to step in on Thai-Cambodia dispute

BORDER DISPUTE

Beijing - The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) is ready to step in on the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia, even as the leaders of the two warring countries said Friday that they have put the recent clashes behind them.

"Asean is ready to help but the concerned parties said they will exhaust all resources first," Asean secretary general Surin Pitsuwan told journalists from Southeast Asia in an exclusive briefing on Friday (October 24) in Beijing.

Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen met at the sidelines of the two-day Asia-Europe meeting attended by 45 leaders from the two continents and said they were confident that both sides will resolve the dispute soon.

The two leaders said the border clashes this month that killed three Cambodian soldiers and wounded a Thai soldier are behind them.

"We are not just neighbors, we are very good friends indeed," Thai foreign minister Sompong Amornvivat told reporters after the meeting between Somchai and Hun Sen.

"His Excellency Hun Sen said the incident that already happened is not the kind that both countries want. It happened instantly. That was uncontrollable at the time. But when things come to this point, the two sides have to advise our troops not to have confrontation any longer," Sompong said.

The two sides vowed to resort to "all existing mechanisms to solve the problem on the border".

At the root of the dispute is the Preah Vihear temple, which the International Court of Justice awarded to Cambodia in 1962, which Thailand has resented.

"Asean is of course concerned with what's happening but we have to live with (the non-interference policy)," Surin added.

He noted that the fact that the dispute was brought up among Asean leaders during dinner on Thursday is "already an improvement".

"Ten years ago, this issue will never come up… so whenever Thailand and Cambodia are ready to resolve their dispute and define their border, let them do it. We are ready to step in only when required and we are not going to use force," Surin said.

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