Thursday, 13 November 2008
Phnom Penh Post
Drawdown that could ease standoff between Cambodia and Thailand depends on Bangkok accepting a single map to define frontier
Cambodia’s border commission head Var Kimhong said 29 border markers dividing Cambodia and Thailand are undisputed, but that the position of an additional 19 still need to be determined. Twenty-five remain missing, he said.
CAMBODIAN and Thai officials said Wednesday that they had tentatively agreed to troop withdrawals from around Preah Vihear temple, a move that could end a long-running border standoff if Thailand’s parliament accepts the terms.
Foreign ministers from the two countries also said they would propose using a single map to demarcate the frontier – a point of contention that has kept many parts of their shared border undefined for decades.
Cambodia has long maintained that its borders were defined by a 1904 map drawn up by its then-colonial ruler France. Thailand, meanwhile, has insisted on using its own map, putting the two sides into frequent conflict.
“I can tell all of you that we have had remarkable results.We have had only small points of disagreement that I will bring back to the Thai parliament for debate and to make a decision on,” said Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat following daylong talks in Siem Reap with his Cambodian counterpart, Hor Namhong.
“Our next steps will be smoother and faster,” he said.
BOTH SIDES ARE WORKING PATIENTLY TO AVOID CONFLICT ON THE BORDER.
The talks were the culmination of three days of meetings between border officials in what was another round of crisis negotiations since the border standoff began in July and erupted in violence last month in a brief gunbattle that left three Cambodian troops and one Thai soldier dead.
Tensions flared after Preah Vihear temple, which was awarded to Cambodia in 1962 by the World Court, was listed as a Unesco World Heritage site, enraging Thai nationalists and helping to spark political turmoil in Thailand.
The military buildup on both sides of the border has been the biggest in years. Although troops have been gradually withdrawn from various points along the frontier since the October 15 clash, Hor Namhong said Cambodia would only pull back completely if Thailand’s parliament accepted the conditions of what he called Wednesday’s “temporary agreement”, including using the 1904 map.
“I hope this document to which we have temporarily agreed will be honoured,” he told reporters, in comments broadcast on Cambodian television.
“I want to stress that both sides are working patiently to avoid conflict on the border as before,” he added.
“We have a clear road map to keep the peace with our neighbours, but we will definitely protect our territory.”