ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Ministers agree on border observers
Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong met yesterday to try to iron out their differences after the two countries' prime ministers Abhisit Vejjajiva and Hun Sen failed to reach an agreement during talks at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit on Sunday.
"The achievement this afternoon exceeded my expectations," said Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa in the wake of the talks that he mediated.
"I'm not underestimating the scale of the problem, but they have overcome their mutually exclusive demands," he said.
Hor Namhong said Cambodia and Thailand had agreed to a "package solution" on sending observers to the disputed area, news agencies reported.
He said the solution was to combine six points in one, that is, both sides would have to first exchange letters of acceptance on the terms of reference for the Indonesian Observer Team (IOT), and at the same time announce the dates of the meetings of the General Border Committee (GBC) and the Joint Border Commission (JBC) of the two countries.
Points three and four are to send a survey team to the disputed area and convene meetings of the GBC and JBC within five days, he said.
Points five and six are to send the full assignment of the IOT and follow up on the results of GBC and JBC meetings within 10 days.
Indonesia, this year's Asean chairman, has tried to facilitate talks over the two countries' joint claims to the 4.6-square-kilometre land plot adjacent to the Preah Vihear temple.
The two sides had signed up to Indonesia's proposal to send observers to monitor a ceasefire on their common border on February 22 at the Asean Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Jakarta, but the deployment was delayed because Bangkok demanded that Cambodian troops and civilians withdraw from the area around the temple site first.
The Cambodian side, meanwhile, had insisted that the monitoring team be deployed before any negotiations on troop withdrawal could resume under the GBC.
Under the compromise, the two foreign ministers agreed that Thailand's formal approval for the deployment of the Indonesian monitoring team would be made on the same date as the announcement of the committee's next meeting, Mr Marty said.
Yesterday's agreement must still be approved by both countries' leaders, however. In Bangkok, Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said he agreed with Prime Minister Abhisit's demand that Cambodia withdraw its troops from the disputed area before Indonesia sends its observers there.
He said a GBC meeting should be held first to explore ways of enabling Thai and Cambodian troops to stay in place before the terms of reference are signed to deploy the observers.
Gen Prawit will attend the Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting in Indonesia on May 18-21. He is expected to discuss with Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh preparations for the 8th GBC meeting, a military source said.
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