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 6 Apr 2009

Thailand to refer border dispute to Asean

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Sunday that clashes between Thai and Cambodian military units along the two countries disputed border last week will be raised at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit with the regional organisation’s six partner nations which opens Friday at Thailand’s oceanside Pattaya resort southeast of Bangkok.

Speaking during his weekly Sunday morning television address, Abhisit was quoted by Thai News Agency as saying that tensions at the disputed border had existed for some years, but had become more worrisome since July last year following the granting of United Nations (Unesco) world heritage status to the ancient Preah Vihear temple which straddles the border.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear temple – called Khao Prah Viharn by Thais -- belongs to Cambodia, but the most practical entrance is from a mountain in Thailand, and both sides claim some of the same portions of surrounding territory.

The latest incident broke out last Friday when soldiers of the two countries clashed twice near the ancient temple. Two Thai soldiers and two Cambodian soldiers died in the fighting while nine Thai soldiers were wounded.

Expressing his condolences to families of Thai soldiers who were killed and wounded in the fighting, Abhisit said he had earlier discussed with his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen that the border dispute should be settled by the Thai-Cambodian joint border committee (JBC).

The border committee will meet in Phnom Penh on Monday and Tuesday. The meeting was planned before last week’s clashes took place.

The prime minister said both Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban and Defence Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan have been in sustained contact with the concerned Cambodian authorities to settle the “misunderstanding” and he said he expects that the problem has now eased.

Thailand’s Army Commander-in-Chief Gen. Anupong Paochinda said Saturday that the latest fighting between Thai and Cambodian military personnel at the disputed border resulted from ‘misunderstanding’ on both sides.

Soldiers from each country stationed along the disputed border area believed that the other side intruded into their country’s territory, according Gen. Anupong, adding that Thailand would not use force to resolve the problem.




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