>Temple talkfest


At its meeting this week, Asean will hope that Cambodia and Thailand exercise utmost restraint in resolving the issue – but the regional body will not take sides, or action.

Singapore (dpa, agencies) – The Association of the Southeast Asian Nations will discuss the border row between two of its members, Cambodia and Thailand, one of the ministers said Sunday.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said that it is in the interest of the 10-member regional grouping to actively help solve problems between its members.

“Asean has reasons because it is a matter among its members, that’s why we would have interest and various plans of actions…to defuse the situation” he told reporters ahead of the Asean ministerial meeting in Singapore. “

“We will try our best to discuss and find solutions,” he added.

“We encourage both sides to exercise restraint and also to resolve the issue peacefully,” said Singaporean foreign ministry official Andrew Tan, who is the spokesman for the Asean Ministerial Meeting.

“I think that is the way to go because the way Asean has survived all these years is not to allow bilateral disputes to actually affect the grouping’s solidarity,” he said.

Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo said they urged Cambodia and Thailand to exercise utmost restraint while finding peaceful solutions to the row.

“We urge both sides to exercise utmost restraint and resolve this issue amicably, in the spirit of Asean solidarity and good neighbourliness,” Yeo said after an informal dinner of Asean officials on the eve of annual ministerial meetings.

“Recognising the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the region the Asean foreign ministers also decided to offer facilities to be placed at the disposal of Cambodia and Thailand in the event that they felt the need for further support,” he said.

Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan of Thailand said the border dispute would be raised when the ministers meet at an informal dinner here later Sunday ahead of the start of formal talks on Monday.

“I am sure they will express the wish and encouragement that they (Thailand and Cambodia) should resolve any tension and any misunderstanding as soon as possible,” he said.

Wirajuda clarified that Cambodia did not seek the help of the United Nations in setting the row, but wrote a letter to inform the world body about the problem.

“They are very much thinking of informing the Asean as well,” he said.

Wirajuda said Asean hopes that Cambodia and Thailand would exercise utmost restraint in resolving the issue.

“Certainly it is our collective wish that the direct parties concerned, Thailand and Cambodia, will exercise utmost restraint and settle the problems between themselves.”

Wirajuda expressed hope that a direct meeting between Cambodia and Thailand joint border committee on Monday will finally find resolution to the problem.

Nearly 1,000 Cambodian troops and 500 Thail soldiers continue to face each other on the disputed territory since the tension began a week ago.

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