Interview: Current ASEAN not able to solve Cambodian, Thai border row: Cambodian academics

10:04, April 27, 2011      

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The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is unlikely to be able to solve the bloodshed conflict between Cambodia and Thailand over the disputed border areas, Cambodian academics said Tuesday, warning that the conflict can lead to a rift in this bloc.

"It's beyond ASEAN's ability to solve it out despite that the ASEAN is putting its strong efforts to mediate it," said Dr. Ros Chantrabuth, advisor to the Royal Academy of Cambodia.

"I believe that only the United Nations Security Council can help to tackle the Cambodian and Thai border conflict," he added.

Meanwhile, he warned that the Cambodian and Thai row could lead to the rift in the ASEAN, and the security stability in the Southeast Asian countries could be in jeopardy if the fighting still continues for a longer time without any intervention from the third party.

Chheang Vannarith, the executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, agreed that the current ASEAN is not strong enough to solve the Cambodian-Thai border dispute.

"It's powerless and lacks unity, for the Cambodian-Thai conflict, it can be solved out at the ASEAN level only if all ASEAN members unanimously give stronger power to the ASEAN chair to put pressure on any of its members that fail to solve issues with peaceful means with international norms," he said.

He added that for now, it has only one way to temporarily end the fighting between the two countries, that is Indonesia, the current ASEAN chair, should urgently dispatch its observers to the disputed border areas despite disagreement from Thailand.

The latest in a series of deadly clashes between Cambodian and Thai troops have occurred for five straight days from April 22-26 at the 13th century Ta Moan temple and Ta Krabei temple in Oddar Meanchey province and on April 26 at the Preah Vihear temple, the World Heritage site.

The clashes left at least a dozen of both sides' troops killed and more than 30 injured.

The fighting has not only cost lives, damaged the temples, but also forced tens of thousands of civilians of both countries to flee for safe shelters.

On the latest clashes between the two neighboring countries, Dr. Ros Chantrabuth said that the renewed fighting "is due to Thailand taking Cambodia as the hostage of its internal political instability."

"Thai's attack on Cambodia is the trick of the Thai government in gaining popularity from the Thai 'yellow-shirt' group, or Thai extremists, as the election is approaching," he said. "Another reason is it is the excuse for the current Thai government to postpone the election."

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva reiterated previously that the government will hold an election in June or early July following a likely House dissolution in the first week of next month.

Chheang Vannarith said that the fighting is also the strategy of the Thai military to expand fighting zones in order to weaken Cambodian forces as it knows that Cambodia has fewer forces and logistics than them.

"So, when Cambodian forces are weakening, Thai troops will fight to capture major Cambodian locations that it wants before it allows international community, especially the ASEAN to mediate," he said.

According to the statement of the Cambodian Ministry of Defense on Tuesday, during the last four days of armed clashes, Thai troops wanted to attack and capture the Ta Moan temple and Ta Krabei temple, but failed as Cambodian troops are strong enough to defend its territory.

The ASEAN summit will be held in Jakarta, Indonesia on May 6-7.

Cambodian government spokesman and minister of information, Khieu Kanharith said Tuesday that Prime Minister Hun Sen and Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva may meet to talk on the border conflict on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit. However, the meeting must have the presence of the third party.

The ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Source: Xinhua
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