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Asean Affairs  7  February 2011

Asean offers mediation in Thai-Cambodia dispute

By  David Swartzentruber

AseanAffairs     7 February 2011

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The deteriorating situation along the Thai-Cambodian border is undermining

confidence in Asean and affecting economic recovery, tourism and investment prospect in the region, said Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in his urgent message to the two Asean Member States now trading cross-border fire with casualties on both sides. "I am deeply concerned about the serious situation on the border between Thailand and Cambodia. This violent conflict must be brought under control and the two parties must return to the negotiating table soonest," said the Dr. Surin.

The violent conflict started with a gun fire and artillery duals mid afternoon Friday, February 4, near the long disputed site of an ancient Hindu Temple, Preah Vihear. While the International Court of Justice decided in favor of Cambodia in 1962, the areas adjacent to the Temple remain under dispute.

"I have been in touch with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cambodia, Hor Namhong, and the Foreign Minister of Thailand, Kasit Piromya, and I have appealed for calm, maximum restraint on both sides, and expressed my fervent desire to see both sides in a positive exchange as soon as possible, said the ASEAN Secretary-General.

Pitsuwan also called both to allow Asean to help them bring some form of a temporary truce and cool down the emotions and temper so that a higher interest of both peoples and that of Asean can be protected and enhanced.

"The situation has escalated into open conflict. And that will definitely affect our economic development, confidence in our region, tourism and prospect for foreign investment, which have just been picking up in light of the world economic recovery," said Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan, who is a former Foreign Minister of Thailand.

Diplomatic sources reveal that Surin's wishes would be materialized soon as Indonesia, the current Chair of ASEAN, steps up its diplomatic efforts to help the two sides arrive at a temporary solution so as to allow bilateral mechanisms between them to accomplish their objectives of border demarcation and general peace in the areas.

"I understand both sides now welcome some form of mediation by the Asean leadership," Surin said.

After a brief cease-fire, hostilities resumed with a Cambodian claim that a Thai artillery shell hit a and collapsed a wing of the Preah Vihear temple.

Paul A. Ebeling, Jnr

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This year in Thailand-what next?

04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More

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