17 February 2011
ASEAN BEST MECHANISMS
TO ENSURE THE CEASEFIRE WILL HOLD
From 12 to 14 February, at night Thai troops conducted unusual military activities hurling hand grenades, firing B40 RPG, shelling 60mm and 81mm mortar rounds around their positions in the western section of Phnom Trap which escalated to a much more intense activities from 21:00 hours on 15 February to 05:00 hours on 16 February 2011, wounding Thai soldiers themselves as many rounds of grenade and munitions hit tree branches and fell inside Thai positions. Cambodian troops exercised utmost restraint and did not respond as Thai firings did not hit Cambodian positions.
Thailand provocation and a threat of an all-out war of aggression
Regardless of the explanations, those activities occurring during an agreed upon ceasefire between the Cambodian and Thai Armed Forces after 4 days of Thailand’s war of aggression, 4 – 7 February 2011 against Cambodia constitute a military provocation for which the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation issued a statement saying that: “This violation of the ceasefire by the Thai Armed Forces clearly shows that the real intention behind Thailand’s insistence on resolving the matter BILATERALLY is to use its overwhelmingly superior military forces to take over Cambodian territory in the vicinity of the TEMPLE OF PREAH VIHEAR.” However, Thai accusation that “Cambodian troops hurled a grenade into a Thai base” seriously injured Sgt Ratchaphon Seepanya of the 16th Infantry Division and the two sides’ exchange of small arms fire inflicting minor injuries to four more Thai troops was pure fabrication to slander the Cambodian troops as aggressors and happy-triggers feeding Thailand’s campaign of intoxication to damage the reputation of the Cambodian government on the international arena, and this could well be part of the scheme to launch an all-out aggression against Cambodia before 22 February 2011 in order to derail the convening of the meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers following the recommendation of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). This is a strong possibility leaving Thailand’s stewardship to Abhisit Vejjajiva and Kasit Pyromya. Thailand has deployed more than 23,000 troops along with heavy weapons, heavy tanks, APC’s and long range artillery in the area facing the Temple of Preah Vihear and its vicinity.
Abhisit Vejjajiva must learn how to count properly, at least up to 3
On the political front, despite the claims by Kasit Pyromya and Abhisit Vejjajiva that Thailand won the New York round, many well seasoned Thai politicians including former Thai ambassador to the UN, Don Pramudwinai and international analysts acknowledged that the problem between Cambodia and Thailand is internationalized, now at the regional level under ASEAN, and if it is not resolved it will go international under the United Nations at a later date. Abhisit Vejjajiva and Kasit Pyromya are good at spinning the news and distorting the facts. They kept on insisting on “bilateral negotiations,” while the whole wide world is well aware of what the Security Council president Maria Luizia Ribeiro Viotti has said, and I quote: “The idea is to work in synergy with the regional efforts – and right now regional efforts are in full force – and resolve the situation peacefully and through effective dialogue.” Taking queue to the Council President, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, the current Asean chairman alluded to this challenge when he said ''the issue here is to extract a clear commitment from Thailand and Cambodia for a peaceful resolution'' indicating the ASEAN’s heavy involvement in the process of negotiations. Abhisit Vejjajiva will achieve absolutely nothing when he patronizes Cambodia by saying that “as the international community thinks the problem should be resolved through negotiation. Cambodia has no reason to refuse, and it should return to the talks.” Mr. Abhisit should do his job and let Cambodia do hers. I have no doubt, Cambodia will go to Jakarta. Not only that, had Abhisit Vejjajiva have learnt how to count properly, at least up to 3, he would have stopped bickering that it must be BILATERAL. If the word is so dear to him and considering his shortcoming in the matter of counting it is admissible for Abhisit Vejjajiva to say BILATERAL PLUS ASEAN.
As the reality sets in, the Abhisit government and Thai media voraciously attacked ASEAN and the Foreign Minister of Indonesia, Marty Natalegwa in a combined and coordinated war of intimidation. The Bangkok Post Online Editorial published on 16 February under the title: “A chance for Asean to help” was not very kind to Foreign Minister Marty by saying: “This was music to the ears of Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, the current Asean chairman. He trailed the foreign ministers to New York, spoke at the brief Security Council session, and lobbied for the chance to head an international effort to mediate a solution to the Thai-Cambodian problem. And the thing that aggravated Thailand the most is that ''Asean will have to decide what are the best mechanisms to put in place to ensure the ceasefire will hold and that no more violence shall erupt,'' said international analysts, and these objectives could only be achieved with “heavy involvement of ASEAN”. Why? - It has become convincing to the international community that Thailand has been distorting the meaning of “bilateral negotiations,” far away from its normal international political activities seeking for the understanding between parties through peaceful means, and turning them into an instrument of coercion, bullying act, open military threat and war of aggression thinking that it can take the law in its own hands, which is critically uncivilized in the relations between two independent and sovereign nations. And for those reasons, Thailand’s overwhelmingly superior military forces compared to Cambodia and Thailand’s deployment of more than 23,000 troops along with a powerful war weapon at the border area are causes for great concern, seemingly requires to have (i) ASEAN peace keeping police to ensure the ceasefire will hold and that no more violence shall erupt, (ii) ASEAN participants in the negotiations for demarcation of the land boundary.
Aspiring to live peacefully with Thailand without sacrificing national sovereignty and territorial integrity, the Royal Government of Cambodia, under the wise leadership of Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, prime minister, has the foresight of seeking for the involvement of UNSC and ASEAN since 2008. It pays off after years of dedication and patience.
Prof. Pen Ngoeun
Senior advisor and member of the Academic Committee
Puthisastra University, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Former Dean and Professor of the Faculty of Business and Economics
At Pannasastra University of Cambodia,
Former Assistant Controller at Phibro Inc
A subsidiary of Citigroup Inc., New York City, USA, until 2000