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NEWS UPDATES 18 August 2010

ASEAN takes on Thai-Cambodia border dispute

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Asean members are holding talks on a request from Cambodia for help in resolving a deadly border dispute with Thailand, the bloc's chairman said on Tuesday.

"As ASEAN chair, Vietnam is actively consulting other ASEAN countries about the proposal that ASEAN mediates over the Preah Vihear dispute," Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga said in a statement.

Cambodia's foreign minister Hor Namhong on Saturday appealed to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for help, "in order to avoid any large scale armed conflict".

He said a stalemate with Thailand had extinguished any hope of further bilateral negotiations.

The neighbouring nations have been locked in a troop standoff at their border since July 2008, when the ancient Preah Vihear temple was granted UNESCO World Heritage status.

ASEAN secretary general Surin Pitsuwan said Monday he would await a decision by the bloc's foreign ministers before responding to Cambodia's request for regional help.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia, although its main entrance lies in Thailand.

The exact boundary through the surrounding grounds remains in dispute, and occasional gunfights between troops of the two nations have resulted in deaths.

Nga called for peaceful settlement of the dispute, and called on Cambodia and Thailand to refrain "from armed conflict and from acts that could affect ASEAN solidarity."

The Thai-Cambodia border has never been fully demarcated, partly because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia.

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