Thursday, July 21, 2011

Phnom Penh: no Troop withdrawal now

By Nuntida Puangthong
The Nation
Published on July 21, 2011

Cambodia said yesterday it would not withdraw its troops from a demilitarised zone at the Preah Vihear temple, established by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), before the arrival of an Asean observer team.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong earlier wrote to Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, who chairs Asean, asking that Jakarta dispatch its observers to the border area as soon as possible."For Cambodia, Indonesian observers must arrive to examine the area first, before we withdraw," he said in Phnom Penh.
However, Asean will not rush the issue, but will give Thailand and Cambodia time to study the ICJ's order on the Preah Vihear dispute before pushing its plan to dispatch the observer team to the demilitarized zone, secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan said yesterday.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Natalegawa sought meetings with representatives of Thailand and Cambodia attending an Asean meeting in Bali this week for consultations on whether Asean needed to adjust its observers plan, he said.
"Now we are waiting for both countries' opinions and reactions; whether and how they will comply with the court's order," Surin said.
On Monday, the ICJ ordered Thailand and Cambodia to immediately withdraw their troops from the Preah Vihear temple and its vicinity, where the court has set up a demilitarised zone in which all military and armed activities are banned pending its interpretation of a 1962 judgement on the boundary between the two countries, as sought by Cambodia.
The Thai Foreign Ministry's deputy permanent secretary Chitriya Pinthong met Natalegawa yesterday on the sidelines of the Asean meeting to discuss the ICJ's decision and Thai legal procedures on the matter.
Thailand still has no clear plan on how to comply with the court's order. Out-going Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Thailand and Cambo-dia needed to talk first about how to comply, but basically Bangkok would not make any decisions before the establishment of a new government.
Bilateral mechanisms such as the Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) and General Border Committee (GBC) will be used as diplomatic channels to talk about the troop withdrawal, he said.
Surin, himself a former Thai foreign minister, said Thailand might need more time for the new government to study the court's order and set a policy of compliance.
Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said he agreed with the idea of calling meetings of the JBC and GBC ahead of the troop pullout, but negotiations would happen only after the new Thai government took office as the out-going Abhisit government had no time to talk.

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