Friday, 25 February 2011

Indonesia to send observation team to monitor Thai-Cambodia border

Indonesian FM Marty Natalegawa (C) with Cambodian FM Hor Namhong (L) and Thai FM Kasit Piromya

The Indonesian Defense Ministry has prepared an observer team that will monitor the armistice between Thailand-Cambodia at the border of the two countries, according to Indonesian news sources.

“We will announce it when it is confirmed,” said Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro at his office in Jakarta on Wednesday 23rd February. He would not however, specify the composition of the team or when it would be established.
Purnomo was responding to Thailand and Cambodia's request for Indonesia to arbitrate their conflict, made during meetings in Jakarta on Tuesday 22nd February.
Both countries have agreed to a ceasefire after a border conflict two weeks ago left at least eight dead. The request was welcomed by the Indonesian government, which has responded by planning the observer team.

“The government will first send an advanced team to gather initial information,” said Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa following an informal ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting at the Foreign Department's office in Jakarta on Tuesday, 22rd February.

Marty did not confirm the number of people in the team, but estimated there would be no more than 20 people in each. There will be two teams assigned at the Thai and Cambodian borders. “We haven't decided the leaders yet. Normally they would be military officers. I think there will be more military members,” he said.

Regarding the suggestion to form the observer team, Marty said he had spoken to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro, and Indonesian Armed Forces Commander Admiral TNI Agus Suhartono. “It won't be in weeks, it will be formed within several days ,” he said.

According to Marty, if one of the countries violates the armistice at the border, the observer team will note it in the report. Later, the report will be submitted to the Indonesian government as the ASEAN 2011 leader. “We then will convey to both parties who has violated and why,” he said.

While the decision to bring in outside observers may appear to be a victory for Cambodia, who has long pushed for third party intervention, the Bangkok Post sounded cautiously optimistic that having observers there would prevent Cambodia from painting the picture of their victimhood at the hands of their larger neighbour.

The larger issue of border demarcation is still in the hands of Cambodia and Thailand, and while Cambodia wants to take the issue to the International Court of Justice, Thailand continues to put its faith in the Joint Boundary Commission (JBC). The date for the first meeting of the JBC since the clashes has not been set, and it is clear that the two sides are currently far apart from each other in their views.

Attention is starting to be turned towards the General Border Committee (GBC), a grouping chaired by the respective defence ministers. Despite the clashes, military ties are closer than the diplomatic ones, and it is hoped that the next GBC meeting will result in a pledge by both sides to end confrontation and restore peace at the border.

Determining ownership over the 4.6sq km at the base of the Preah Vihear temple – the main cause of tension – is beyond the mandate of the GBC however, and will require higher powers to fix.

Sources: Bangkok Post, TEMPO Interactive

For more information, see the Menas Borders website, here.

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