Monday, February 28, 2011

Press Briefing and Conference on Issues Concerning War on the Cambodian-Thai Border at Preah Vihear Area and the UN Security Council Session

February 17, 2011

Usually I talk on current topics and issues during my presence at events or prescheduled occasions so that the press do not have to ask me for my opinion on the current trend of development. However, to I have the need to give a press conference to address some of the issues for national and international public concerning the war at the Preah Vihear temple area on the Cambodian-Thai border. I also have the need to make some notes on the meeting of the UN Security Council that some circles and politicians have misinterpreted and in some instances even discrediting Cambodia for not listening to the international opinion or work for persuasion of Cambodia to agree for a meeting that is outside the ASEAN framework.

As you know that I have just met with Thai Deputy Prime Minister, HE Trairong Suwankiri, and I told asked him to convey some of my messages to the Thai side. As we have here TV3 from Thailand and some other Thai press, I would like to you to take note on who has run counter to international and/or regional (conflict resolution) mechanisms, UN or ASEAN. Maybe I should start on who has actually requested for convening of the UN Security Council meeting. Was not it a letter sent by Hun Sen proposing to the chairman of the UN Security Council? My proposition has been obstructed by Thailand 1) to have such a meeting convened and 2) to present any declaration at all, in case there was going to be a meeting.

In fact, I would rather keep quiet and leave it cool down and I would not want to find anybody’s fault in this. I am sure Thai Prime Minister HE Abhisit and his Foreign Minister Kasit Phiromya surely understand this problem and more importantly they know for sure what they have done in preventing the UN Security Council from convening such a meeting or making statement. The UN Security Council has already met and a statement or rather the communiqué has already been made. Whose victory is that? I would call it a victory because everybody knows that it is not that simple to get border conflict as such to the Security Council.

Why then did Cambodia send this issue for the UN Security Council’s attention? It is because of the nature of war, which one could define it as a big armed clash or a small scale war. Those people in Bangkok have argued that in order to be defined as a war the event must involve the use of aircraft. For me, when every side fires upon each other, it is a war. An armed clash would not last longer than a couple of minutes. However, this fight has been a heavy exchange of fire that could be called a war.
It was because of an aspect of being at war (of the two sides) that the UNSC convened for an urgent meeting. This, for the above reason, has not been a meeting at the request of Thailand, but definitely in response to the request of Cambodia. So for what Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya has said to Cambodia to listen to the international public opinion or decision, I would ask for him to really have to do that himself.

Secondly, who has rejected the role of ASEAN? In 2008, at an ASEAN Foreign Minister meeting in Singapore, Cambodia sent its request to ASEAN meeting calling for a convention of ASEAN on issue of Thai-Cambodian border conflict. Thailand too objected to any involvement from ASEAN. As the war took place, Surin Pitsuwan, General Secretary of ASEAN, expressed concern of behalf of ASEAN and will to involve (in helping to find peace and stability) but Prime Minister Abhisit himself stated ‘it is too early for ASEAN to get involved.’

To be frank, even after the visit to Phnom Penh and then to Bankgok of the Indonesian Foreign Minister, rotating chairperson of ASEAN, Bangkok still sticks to its position of bilateral solution and no involvement from ASEAN. Maybe I should urge the Thai leader to keep track of what they have said. They all are well educated people. So I may urge them not to deceive others as well as let other deceive them.

It is so shockingly funny that as ASEAN convenes a meeting (on Thai-Cambodian border conflict) on February 22, Thailand abruptly swapped position while making it public that (the region should) persuade and advise Cambodia to go to the ASEAN meeting. Well is not it the ASEAN meeting (or mechanism) that Cambodia has been waiting for? Don’t you see that Cambodia’s urgent demand for a solution (of the problem) could not be addressed directly by ASEAN for needed consensus? Cambodia needs to get the matter to New York (for the UNSC’s attention) and wait for the ball to be shot to the goal in Jakarta? One should see this fact.

A former Thai diplomat, who was a permanent representative of Thailand to the United Nations, said that was not Thai wish, it was Cambodia’s intention. He had said it correctly. I understand why Thai leaders up to the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister levels have taken risk in making such an interpretation of their stands. Always they have opposed to the Cambodian proposal, but now they have gone to 180 degree in opposite to their earlier stand. They have applied what I call the ‘eel-style’ diplomacy, or literally being intrusive to a point that they would not know where to go.

Let me quote a sentence on page five of the speech by HE Hor Namhong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, to the UNSC: “Though patience and effort by Cambodia to seek for a solution by peaceful and bilateral means have failed, Cambodian is always nurturing its wish for a peaceful resolution within the ASEAN framework as both Cambodia and Thailand are its members.” Never has Thailand made such a move, whether international or regional. Cambodia has always been the one doing that. Why has it now become Thai victory? And why is Cambodian the one to be, in their words, persuaded?

When we decided to have a meeting in Jakarta, where there will be presence of the rotating chairperson of ASEAN, I would like to ask (Thai leaders) if it is anything but not bilateral way. Meetings between Thailand and Cambodia at Hua Hin and Siemreap were bilateral but the one to be reconvened in Jakarta, with presence of the third party, is not. The mechanism for this conflict resolution has now become multilateral. Of course, it is true that the two sides, Thailand and Cambodia are the ones to settle the differences but with a third party present and is sitting there too. They should not try to fool Thai people as doing so would also impact on Cambodia. Never has it for once that Thailand wishes for ASEAN or UN to involve, except bilateral negotiation, which has come out to a standstill.

I have asked Deputy Prime Minister Trairong Suwankiri to convey my message to Prime Minister Abhisit on a number of points since on February 12, PM Abhisit had asked a third country, I would not disclose it, to send me messages seeking my understanding on three points. Firstly, he said he and the yellow shirt are not the same. He has my understanding but he should not allow himself to repeat whatever the yellow shirt has been saying. Some of his words have got similarity with those of the yellow shirt too. While saying that Abhisit could not control the yellow shirt, do you mean that Sondhi Limthongkul and Chamlong Srimuong are also Prime Ministers? On the contrary in Cambodia, we have not got any movement against Thailand.

Secondly, I have been described as not understanding internal Thai procedure on ratifying the three minutes of the previous meetings (of the two countries’ foreign ministers). The Thai side has had so much difficulty in lobbying the Thai parliament and Senate to give the three minutes their ratifications. Don’t you expect I understand that? Only it has been too long. The lapse has been from 2008 though to 2011. As this is the case, would there be a need for more meeting of the Join Border Committee while minutes from the previous meetings have yet to be ratified? Would this not be only a pretext to contain the matter within the bilateral boundary? So my position is that you ratify the previous documents before asking for more negotiations. We should not, according the article 190 of Thai Constitution, create a fourth minutes.

Thirdly, he said he could not control the media in Thailand. I understand their difficulties and I also understand the freedom of press but one should also make some efforts. Well this is what I have to say about as PM Abhisit has depended on a third country to relay the message to me about his difficulties. Now we have come to a subject of our press conference today which is the communiqué of the UNSC and one of the most important points is creation of a state of permanent ceasefire.

Based on this position, in the forthcoming meeting between Foreign Minister of Cambodia with Foreign Minister of Thailand in the presence of ASEAN members as a whole or the ASEAN rotating chairperson, Cambodia will propose for signing of a ceasefire agreement. A countersign of the ASEAN chairperson would also be great but all would depend on negotiation. The UNSC has recommended ASEAN to see about getting a ceasefire agreement signed. How do we go about setting a framework for a ceasefire?

Cambodia would propose four major points in such agreement:

First – Cambodian and Thai sides could think of a term used to describe the situation such as a permanent ceasefire to be signed and countersigned by/between the two Governments which here later I call in short ‘Cambodian and Thai side.’ What we have to ensure to have no more shootings or explosions forever.

Second - Maintain the status quo of military position of both sides, while a stop and observation must be put on troop movement, adjustment and/or any further violations until ultimate solution on border demarcation is reached. How to go about maintaining the permanent ceasefire? (Both sides must observe) a permanent ceasefire whereby military must keep troop positions where they are. This should mean military locations while troop number could be readjusted to smaller. Here I have said it to be troops and their locations, not forces, as the number of troops should be under the discussion of military commanders of both sides. I wish that the press get my speech and what I said correctly. They should keep in mind that my speech has been taped and broadcast in whole.

Third – Encouragement for dialogues between the two armies should continue. What has been done yesterday at the Phnom Trop was good since because of discussion between the two militaries, there was a quiet night last night. However, such ceasefire is still fragile that a more durable one is in the making. I encourage that both sides urge for closer cooperation between the two armies as what was before July 15, 2008. They may do sporting matches together to ease tension.

Fourth – in order to guarantee an effective ceasefire, both sides propose for a control of ceasefire by eight ASEAN countries, excluding Cambodia and Thailand. I can guarantee that the Thai side would not agree to the fourth point of this ceasefire agreement. In that case, Cambodia would welcome unilaterally military presence of the ASEAN countries on Cambodian territory so that they could police Cambodian armed forces. It would even be better if they could be stationed in between the two armies. (Both sides) should show their goodwills and we should stay under the light so that everyone is seen and there is nothing to be afraid of a monitoring mechanism.

I have mentioned already that Cambodia would urge for military observers, peace keeping forces and fact-finding missions from any institutions, be it the UN or ASEAN, as long as there is this presence of the third party. HE Hor Namhong, DPM and Foreign Minister of Cambodia is taking the initiative to draft the agreement. Upon its completion, it will be sent to ASEAN rotating chairman. While visiting Cambodia, the Foreign Minister of Indonesia and Chairperson of ASEAN, HE Dr. Marty M. Natalegawa, has illustrated that there should be a ceasefire at a higher level than the one being conducted currently between military regions.

Again, in this understanding, Cambodia proposes for a ceasefire that is going to be signed by foreign ministers of Cambodia and Thailand at the ASEAN meeting. Also, I have depended on Thai DPM to pass the four points of the agreement to PM Abhisit so that he could formulate a position.

Let’s see who would be signing the agreement and who would not? Again I must say (Thai) needs not tell Cambodia to go to ASEAN because it is Cambodian wish since 2008. The conflict has now been brought at the UNSC and the world has got a sense of what it is about. It would also be visible to the world as to who has taken initiative for a ceasefire and who has tried to hinder the effort. Foreign Minister of Thailand Kasit Piromya has urged that Cambodia respect and implement what has been called for by the international community and Cambodia is well on its way to doing so, and I just wanted to add here that it is Cambodia, not Thailand, who made this case heard at the UN Security Council.

Now that there is going to be the ASEAN foreign ministers meeting, Cambodia is also taking the initiative to propose a permanent ceasefire in accordance with the recommendation from the UN Security Council.

Let me now make it clear as to which forum and which form should be conducted regarding concerned parties. Again, within the framework of the border conflict, there must be this presence of the third party. Take for instance, the ASEAN foreign ministers meeting on February 22, there will be the presence of the ASEAN chairperson or the whole of ASEAN members. The Join Border Committee also needs to have the third party’s presence in its meeting. As for where to meet, Cambodia would be quite flexible but on one condition that there has to be a third party present. It is true that any final decision reached will be by the two sides.

Aside from this, other forums for trade, tourism, culture would not need to be conducted in the third party’s presence. It is not that Cambodia is looking at a third party’s presence for every forum. On another instance, the temple of Preah Vihear is no longer one that belongs to Cambodia alone anymore. It is now the world heritage. When PM Abhisit prohibits the UNESCO mission to the temple, what does he think he is? He owns the temple or what? We have to work to contain the border conflict on the spot and not to expand to throughout more than 800 km borderline. Efforts need to be made to containing military conflict from spilling over issues of trade, investment, tourism and culture, etc.

To get our problem to and through the door of the UNSC is by no means easy matter. A veto by anyone member among five permanent members, the UNSC meeting would not happen or a communique would not be possible. Actually Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya did a great deal in his lobby to either have no meeting or to have no resolution of any kind at all. Now he (acted as if he) has won it all. Let him have it. I just wanted to remind him that he has used terms that have not been constructive. At one point he compared Cambodia to a bad kid in the neighborhood and warned that by messing with Thailand, hurting oneself would be the result.

He may now have the feeling that who gets more pain than whom. By splashing water on each other, no one could keep himself dry. Maybe we should sit down and have a game of chess together. Someone in Bangkok sounds out recently that now it is time to change negotiator. I would not poke my nose into Thai affairs but this Foreign Minister should review what he had said in the past days in disrepute of China, France, Russia and India. I also have a pity on Thai press that whatever they quoted their leaders as saying, they later were the ones to be responsible for whatever mistake those leaders did.

Again both sides need to maintain their troop positions and refrain from mobilizing their troops until there is a final solution on issue of border demarcation. When that happens may not be possible because the two sides are far apart from each other and ASEAN could not solve the problem but only to contain it. In Cambodian view, even the UNSC has not taken up any particular measures, Cambodia is preparing to demand the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague’s decision from 1962 (on Preah Vihear temple and the annexed maps) be clarified again. We are not seeking for retrial but clarification of the court’s decision.

HE Hor Namhong already told Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya on February 4 in Siemreap province already. The court decision is one best way for both sides as whatever decision made by the court will be understood by the people. We cannot avoid going to the court. We wanted the UNSC to ask the ICJ to provide a clarification on that, but because the UNSC did not do it, the intention has been interpreted (by Thailand) as (Cambodian) disappointment. Well in this case I must say there is no such thing on the part of Cambodia because it well understands that there must always be a bargaining in the market.

As for the four-point proposal for the ceasefire it is not indeed a cliché but more inputs need to add on to it. That is just Cambodian initiative to sound out what they see as important elements needed for framing up a ceasefire agreement. We will not abandon the MOU of 2000 but further meeting of JBC will have to be waiting till after the three minutes of the previous meeting are ratified.

A major issue here is the map. (Thai side) has unilaterally drawn and used a map. In the world history, only Adolf Hitler has been recorded to be the one to redraw a map and make war for it. Cambodia has got a border that is recognized internationally, while the ICJ’s decision has also determined based on the map of the Dangrek mountain too. No one, especially Sondhi Limthongkul or Chamlang Srimuang, etc. has got the right to interpret the court decision for having decided to offer temple to Cambodia and not the land. This also includes an inmate (Veera Somkwamkid) who would have to serve for at least two-thirds of the court sentence or he would not be receiving a royal pardon.

Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, the Heroic King Father, has made great effort in a crusade to demand the return of the Preah Vihear temple in 1962. As his children, we would not back down on our endeavor to defend whatever was achieved and left by him. This is the land belongs to our ancestors. I would not elaborate on history and I would not demand for return of former provinces (that belong in the past to Cambodia). For me there will be no give and take. I would defend the land that is left for Cambodia from Samdech Preah Norodom, whom I would say in a way had made a correct decision to ask for French protection, and later Preah Baat Sisovath in 1904 and 1907.

Having come to this I would like to place an appeal to our people to stay calm and refrain from escalating situation into confrontation on all fronts. We have not hostility towards Thais no matter how hostile the yellow shirt people have on us. Even when the Foreign Minister of Thailand insulted me in the past, I have let it gone be by gone. However, I wish that he could distinguish between political nature and point. He was against the ASEAN framework one day and now acts as if he is the one wants that the most. I call that cheating oneself and his people. The other day they were against the UNSC’s meeting (on the border conflict) while lobbying for the group to issue no statement on it, a moment later they pretended to be the one who welcome it the most.

Kyodo: I have two questions. First, will the observers come in the military or police framework? Will it be one of ASEAN as a whole or any one member country could do so if they choose to? Second, what do you expect of ASEAN that looks like a grown up man but with relatively no teeth? Do you have doubt when the General Secretary of ASEAN is a Thai national and the Foreign Minister of Indonesia is married to a Thai wife as well? Has Cambodia sued to ICJ already or this would commence after the ASEAN led meeting?

Samdech Techo: Thank you for the questions. As far as observer status is concerned, we are in the stage of making a proposition. As to whether it will be a military or police, or by each separate nation or as a group of (ASEAN) countries will be up to the discussion. It is still in negotiating stage. However, as far as Cambodian position is concerned, we would approve all sorts of involvement - military, police or even civilian and/or by each separate member country or as a group.

Secondly, it is true that ASEAN does not have big muscle but this group has got a will which has been reflected through the fact that ASEAN is willing to solve problem among ASEAN members so as to build up an ASEAN community according to its charter. ASEAN wishes to achieve ceasefire, reconciliation and an end to the conflict. So, whether it has a muscle to show or not, if there were to be a ceasefire agreement between Cambodia and Thailand, ASEAN can perform its role by deploying its observers to oversee the agreement implementation and to prevent further conflict.

As far as your question about the General Secretary of ASEAN and the rotating chairman of ASEAN is concerned, I am sure they would perform their duties under the flag of ASEAN. I believe both of them will perform their duties. I am sure they will not make decision on the basis of racial inclination at all. Furthermore, Indonesia used to be co-chair country of the Paris Peace Agreement (or the political settlement for the Cambodian conflict). The current President of the Indonesian Republic is HE Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who led the Indonesian UNTAC (United Nations Transitional Authority for Cambodia) forces to Cambodia. In fact when we had this problem back in 2008, he already expressed his will to help. He called me on the phone and that assured me that he had strong concern for regional stability.

As for the process of bringing this case to the ICJ attention for clarification of its 1962 decision, we have sought for international lawyers to work on this case and the institution of law process for such a clarification would commence. Before we thought of going to the court together but now it is not necessary because we only require the court’s clarification of its 1962 ruling. It would not take long, perhaps after the ASEAN-led meeting.

Bayon Media: Suppose that the said (conflict resolution) mechanism is here to exist, would ASEAN report settlement to the UNSC for assertion and recognition so that Thailand would never be able to go back on what they have agreed?

Samdech Techo: I am sure this is important and we will see to that. Now we will follow the flow. This is a long-term problem where recognition and assertion will be a key matter. However, while the matter will be forwarded to the ICJ, I think there is no need for assertion whatsoever from the UNSC. That will depend entirely on the clarification of the court decision by ICJ only. Decision by ICJ would not need to be juristically approved by any other institutions. UNSC will of course monitor what they have decided and the mechanism (ASEAN) to see the matter through.

TV3 Thailand: What have you discussed with HE Trairong Suwankiri? Thai businessmen have had problem before, will they have problem again this time?

Samdech Techo: With HE Trairong Suwankiri, we have discussed various issues ranging from the Thai exhibition in Phnom Penh, preparation for business consultation, how to create investment confidence to other matters relating to development of the two countries (‘s relations). I have mentioned to Trairong about what happens in Kashmir but India and Pakistan have maintained business and trade between each other. I also depended on him, as I told you earlier, to send a message to PM Abhisit too.

I can assure you that there will be no discrimination that leads to unfortunate circumstances as in 2003. You may notice that here in Phnom Penh there is no forum that insults Thailand because here we do not have PAD (People’s Alliance for Democracy or the yellow shirt people) like in Bangkok, or Sondhi Limthongkul or Chamlong Srimuang, etc. Thais are welcome to Cambodia as tourists or businessmen. We do not expect those who come to lay mine or as part of drug trafficking. Both sides will have to deal with these groups of people. I am sure there will be plenty of security and many people will surely come to visit the exhibition.

CTN TV: First, Thailand has said before that there will be a meeting between the two defense ministers after the UNSC meeting, will now that be possible after the ASEAN meeting? Second, Will there be a third party involved in the process of border demarcation? Third, Thai wishes to have border demarcation starting from section where there is no tension as they have acknowledged border tension have occurred only within 5% to 10% of the whole border length. Cambodia is of the opinion that demarcation of the border should start from the Preah Vihear temple area. What is your opinion?

Samdech Techo: As for the meeting between the two defense ministers, we can foresee two forms. In the form of meeting that the two defense ministers will discuss issues relating to resolving border dispute, certainly there will need to have a third party present. However, meeting at the level of General Border Committee (GBC), for which the ministers of national defense of the two countries co-chairs, bilateral meeting can take place. Again this will have to be conducted without discussion on border dispute. You may understand that the GBC’s duty is to prevent drug trafficking and cross border crimes but not border dispute.

Now, on question would there need to be a third party in demarcation process of the border between Thailand and Cambodia which is totally about 800 km, whereas only about 10 km of that is in dispute. Cambodia would like the third party to be present in demarcation of the disputed part and not the rest. Perhaps also in the forthcoming ASEAN meeting, in the presence of ASEAN chiar, foreign ministers of the two countries could throw out initiative for troops readjustment so that search for mines and de-mining of areas out of disputed section of the border could be considered.

What remains to be seen is when the Thai parliament will ratify the three meetings minutes, which seem to have outdated already? I doubted if PM Abhisit could convince the Thai parliament for a ratification or stand up to threat from the yellow shirt for doing that. I see that we need to wait for the ICJ to make a clarification of its1962 decision first as we have two maps to decide here. Cambodia sticks to the one that was used by the ICJ then.

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