ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Is it war or politics?
By David Swartzemtruber
Today’s trip of Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, this year’s Asean chairman, to Cambodia and Thailand has been cancelled as it was reported that he wanted to examine the border treaties between the two countries before speaking with Thai officials.
Thailand has been refusing to allow Indonesian observers into the border area, although Cambodia has agreed.
The conflict occurs at a time when Thailand’s general election has unofficially started. The official election should kick off in two weeks, when the lower house of the Thai parliament is dissolved.
Thai political observers speculate that the border conflict could benefit the political fortunes of current Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva as political changes seldom occur during military conflicts.
Thailand’s Election Commission has called for a quick end to the hostilities because troops will be needed to for the upcoming elections.
Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan, who is Thai, wants the two countries to turn to the negotiating table.
"The world and Asean is alarmed by the new outbreak of violent and fatal clashes along the Cambodian-Thai border," he said.
Meanwhile, local media report that reinforcements for both sides are rushing to the border and residents in the battle zones have been or are evacuating.
Given the confluence of the conflict and politics in Thailand, it is difficult predict when Thailand and Cambodia will return to the negotiating table.
Letters that do not contain full contact information cannot be published.
Letters become the property of AseanAffairs and may be republished in any format.
They typically run 150 words or less and may be edited
submit your comment in the box below