Monday, April 18, 2011

Thailand-Cambodia Conflicts

Reports of Japan's earthquakes and Tsunami as well as the southern flooding that have dominated media coverage may have made Thais temporarily forget the Thailand and Cambodia conflicts. The border conflicts between the two countries however continue to make headlines. Last week, the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) meeting ended without any progress or solutions to end the border dispute.

The first JBC meeting since the military clashes on the Thai-Cambodian border in February was held in a lackluster atmosphere. It was a 'purely bilateral' negotiation as required by Thailand. Indonesia, in its capacity as current chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), only played a facilitator's role, providing the meeting venue and facilities for both countries. The meeting did not discuss any contentious issues that could bring about tensions.

Permanent Cease-Fire

This JBC meeting was held with much efforts from Indonesia as current ASEAN chairman after it has been assigned by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to get Thailand and Cambodia to enter a negotiation to establish a permanent cease-fire and to have Indonesian observers be stationed to monitor a cease-fire at the time that Thailand lacks unity and is marred by political infighting.

The Thai Government must face Cambodia which has unity over the border dispute while it is still struggling in conflicts with the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD). Even the Foreign Ministry and the Defence Ministry have shown differing views and stance. The military, which is tasked with responsibilities in the General Border Committee (GBC), insists it will not attend the GBC meeting if it is held in the third country and not in Thailand or Cambodia.

The fact that Parliament has not approved the previous JBC minutes makes it difficult for the government to enter negotiations with Cambodia and this also shows the lack of solidarity between the government and Parliament. The lack of unity has also led to the government's failure to help two Thais detained in Cambodia. One side believes the country should respect the Cambodian court decision and should either appeal or seek Royal pardon, and on the other, rejects the court ruling and threatened to bring the case to the world court.

Resolving Ongoing Dispute

The case of the two Thais should serve as a lesson for every party to realize that to solve the Cambodian dispute Thailand must have unity and walk the same path. Thais could trip over each other by walking a different path. The government should organize meetings to listen to opinions from different groups and find the common ground that is the country's stance and not that of any particular group.

The Thailand and Cambodian conflict is no longer just a conflict between the two countries because the UNSC and ASEAN have now become involved in certain way. We must empathize with Indonesia because not only that it is current ASEAN chairman but also a great friend of our country. We must show the world community that we respect the UN resolution.

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