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Thailand rejects Asean role in border row


July 23, 2008

Thai-Cambodia Temple Feud:
Thailand rejects Asean role in border row

Asean foreign ministers decided Tuesday not to immediately set up a proposed "contact group" to mediate a tense border standoff between Thailand and Cambodia, after Thailand opposed the idea on grounds the two countries should try to resolve their dispute bilaterally before seeking the help of outsiders, reported Kyodo news agency.

"We think it's premature to set up the contact group since we can deal with the dispute by ourselves," Thai Deputy Prime Minister Sahas Bunditkul told reporters after a hastily called informal lunch meeting with other foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Thailand Hote

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, in an interview later Tuesday with Kyodo News in Phnom Penh, expressed regret over Asean’s inaction and said Cambodia has little choice now but to seek help from the U.N. Security Council.

"Cambodia is not in a very joyful position to resolve the issue through the UN Security Council but Cambodia is forced to do so, or otherwise Cambodia has to accept the de facto occupation of Thai armed forces," he said.

In a letter subsequently sent to Hor Namhong by Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo, as chairman of Asean, Yeo called Cambodia's resort to the UNSC overly hasty and warned it could "harm Asean’s standing and actually make the resolution of the issue more difficult," according to Asean sources

The dispute over a border area near an ancient temple of Preah Vihear, which was recently inscribed as a World Heritage site, has flared up since Thai troops crossed into a contested area on July 15. It has since threatened to escalate into armed conflict.

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