Thailand, Cambodia Foreign Ministers to Face Off at UN
Daniel Schearf | Bangkok February 14, 2011
Thailand and Cambodia's are to make their case before the United Nations in New York over deadly border fighting that erupted a week ago. Cambodia wants U.N. peacekeepers sent to prevent further clashes. But Thailand rejects any U.N. involvement.
Thailand's Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and Cambodia's Foreign Minister Hor Namhong will address the United Nations Security Council on Monday
Cambodia requested the emergency meeting after the worst fighting with Thailand in years broke out near a disputed border area.
At least eight people were killed when soldiers exchanged artillery and machine-gun fire. Thousands of villagers fled for safety. Both sides say the other fired first.
By Monday, many had returned home but both sides are on full alert for any further clashes.
Cambodia calls the clashes a Thai invasion akin to war and wants the U.N. to send peacekeeping troops to the area.
Phay Siphan, a spokesman for Cambodia's Council of Ministers, says the U.N. presence would help build trust between the two nations.
"What we wish to tell the world that we wish to stop all aggressions,” Phay Siphan said. “We wish to stop all firing against the temple of Preah Vihear. And, we wish to build like a trust between two nations."
Thailand rejects the proposal for U.N. troops.
Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn says the issue must be resolved bilaterally.
"We hope that the international community will persuade Cambodia to return to the negotiating table with us where we already have the memorandum of understanding and we also have the exiting mechanism - the joint border committee that was to have met before the incident took place at the end of the month," Panitan said.
Cambodia pulled out of the border talks after the fighting broke out.
The clashes erupted near disputed territory surrounding a 900-year-old Hindu Khmer temple known as Preah Vihear in Cambodia and Phra Viharn in Thailand.
The International Court of Justice in 1962 ruled the temple is in Cambodia, but a main entrance is on the Thai side and both dispute areas around the temple.
The border dispute flared up in 2008, after the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, granted World Heritage status to the temple.
Thai nationalists, many of whom say the temple belongs to Thailand, protested, and both governments reinforced troops along the border, who occasionally exchanged gunfire.
In this latest incident, Cambodia says the temple sustained heavy damage from Thai shelling, though foreign media reports indicate it was minor.
A U.N. team wants to visit the temple to assess the damage but Thailand has objected and is lobbying to have the World Heritage status removed.
The border tensions come as internal pressure is building on the Thai government.
Thousands of anti-government Red Shirts are holding monthly demonstrations against what they say is unfair treatment of their leaders.
Nationalist Yellow Shirts are also rallying against the government for not being tougher on Cambodia.
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