02/23/2011, 00.00
THAILAND – CAMBODIA
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Preah Vihear: Indonesian team to monitor fragile truce between Bangkok and Phnom Penh

Indonesia, which holds ASEAN’s rotating presidency, is deploying a team to monitor the border between the two countries. It will include civilian and military personnel, who will move along and across the border. Still, no ceasefire has been put in place as Thailand pledges not to withdraw its troops.

Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Indonesia’s Defence Ministry is deploying an observer team to the disputed Thai-Cambodian border, which has recently seen violent clashes break out between soldiers of the two countries. The team is set to monitor the truce in place even though no mention has been made of a ceasefire.

Indonesia, which currently chairs the ten-member Association of Southeast Asian nations (ASEAN), will deploy observers on both sides of the border. “We're preparing observers for both sides,” Indonesian Defence Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said today.

It was reported yesterday that Bangkok and Phnom Penh had agreed on a truce but not on a ceasefire, and had asked Indonesia, the current chair of the ASEAN, to patrol the border.

Indonesia welcomed the request, announcing that it would send an advanced team to make “initial observations”. However, it added that its team would not be a peacekeeping or peace enforcement team. Observers, both military and civilian, would be unarmed.

Sources at Cambodia’s Foreign Ministry said that observer teams could use both helicopters and trucks and move in and out of the disputed area.

In the meantime, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva reiterated that Thailand would not give up the disputed area because the country has the right to protect its sovereignty and retaliate if its rights are violated.

Mr Abhisit said he would meet with a UNESCO delegation, expected on Friday, to explain the real causes of the crisis between Thailand and Cambodia.

The dispute began in 1962 when the International Court of Justice awarded the area with the ruins of the Preah Vihear Hindu temple to Cambodia, which is located atop a cliff surrounded by jungle claimed by Thailand. Given the nature of the terrain, it is impossible to reach the site directly from Cambodia.

After years of negotiations, the issue flared up in 2008 when UNESCO decided to make it a World Heritage Site, demanding Thailand allow access to the temple through its territory.

Since then, armed clashes have pitted soldiers from the two countries against one another. The last was in April 2009 and cost the lives of four Thai soldiers.

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