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Monday, April 11, 2011

Thai-Cambodian conflict sets precedent for ASEAN, chairman says

Source: monstersandcritics.com

Bangkok - The Thai-Cambodian border dispute has set a precedent for regional problem solving by the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Indonesian foreign minister said Monday.

Indonesia, which now holds the rotating chairmanship of ASEAN, has been active over the past two months in promoting a ceasefire and facilitating talks between Thailand and Cambodia over their joint claims to a plot of land adjacent to an 11th-century Hindu temple on their border and hosted talks Thursday and Friday between them in Bogor.

'I think we have the potential for this episode to have a silver lining, a positive long-term impact in the sense that we are setting a precedent,' Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said in Bangkok.

ASEAN has in the past maintained a stance of non-interference in it 10 member states' internal or bilateral affairs, raising questions about the group's effectiveness as a regional problem solver.

'I think it has had a potentially positive impact, for it shows ASEAN for the first time addressing an issue of this type directly and not simply producing documents,' Natalegawa said.

Both Cambodian and Thailand are members of ASEAN, which also includes Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.

Preah Vihear temple has been a bone of contention between Thailand and Cambodia for the past five decades, leading to a cessation of diplomatic ties in 1958.

The two countries agreed to have the sovereignty spat settled at the International Court, which in 1962 ruled that the temple belonged to Cambodia.

Fighting broke out between Thai and Cambodian troops near the temple February 4-7, killing three Thais and five Cambodians and leaving dozens wounded on both sides.

The conflict raised questioned about solidarity within ASEAN, which is striving to be an economic community similar to the European Union by 2015.

Although Indonesia has played a role in bringing both sides to the negotiating table, Thailand and Cambodia remained at loggerheads over joint claims to a 4.6-square-kilometre plot of land adjacent to Preah Vihear that was not including in The Hague's 1962 ruling.

Nalalegawa was in Bangkok to lead an ASEAN foreign ministers meeting on the upcoming East Asia Summit, one of Asia's pivotal security forums, which Indonesia is to host in October or November.

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