PM: Indonesian ‘surveyors’ to inspect Thai-Cambodian border


BANGKOK, May 23 – Indonesia as the current chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will initially send a team of surveyors, not observers, to inspect the Thai-Cambodian border area but will not enter the 4.6 sq km contested area, according to Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Mr Abhisit said the earlier meeting of Defence Ministers of Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia had concluded that the surveyors from Indonesia would be despatched and working for two days at the border areas.

In Thailand’s border, the premier said, they will inspect six or seven locations in Si Sa Ket province and will strictly not enter the contested area.

When the surveyors return to Indonesia, the Thai-Cambodian General Border Committee (GBC) will meet in Cambodia and if the results conclude with an agreement to withdraw Cambodian troops from the 4.6 sq km area, then observers from Indonesia could come to inspect the areas.

“The Cabinet meeting today discussed the common stance of Thailand on Thai-Cambodian border issue. I am confident that the government’s action will not cause Thailand to lose territory. The surveyors from Indonesia must not wear uniforms and the scope of their work must be clearly defined. They will not be called observers as the observers can come after troop withdrawal,” he said.

Mr Abhsiit on Monday chaired a meeting at Government House of Cabinet ministers tasked with reviewing Thai-Cambodian problems to discuss and prepare for a meeting of the United Nations UNESCO the World Heritage Committee in Paris in June 2011 and the case Cambodia raised to the International Court of Justice.

Last month Cambodia asked the World Court to clarify a 1962 ruling about the ancient temple on its disputed border with Thailand following the latest armed clashes between the two neighbouring countries.

The International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled 49 years ago that the 11th-century Preah Vihear belonged to Cambodia, although its primary entrance lies in Thailand. However both countries claim ownership of the 4.6-square-kilometre (1.8-square-mile) surrounding area.

Mr Abhsiit said that Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti who heads Thai delegation to the World Heritage Committee meeting leaves Bangkok for Paris Monday night for the meeting and to meet his Cambodian counterpart.

He said Thailand will assert its stance that the committee should postpone or otherwise not consider the management plan for the surrounding area of Preah Vihear Temple as proposed by Cambodia to avoid further conflict.

If it was agreed upon, the issue would be withdrawn from the agenda, he said.

The prime minister said he had been reported from the agencies concerned on the preparation for fighting the case in the International Court of Justice but could not disclose the details.

Regarding the possibility that the change of government after the July 3 general elections might impact the World Heritage Committee decision, Mr Abhisit said he believed the panel will make its decision before the Thai poll result.

Thailand stands firm on its decision to bid to host the heritage committee meeting next year, he said.

Mr Abhisit also said he hoped that there would be no more border clashes as the push for the observers was intended to resolve the border problem.