Ministry of Foreign Affairs briefs Thailand-based diplomats on clashes at the Thai-Cambodian border
08 February 2011
Posted in Press Release
On 5 February 2011, Mr. Thani Thongphakdi, Director General of the Department of Information and Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, gave a press conference following Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya’s meeting with a group of foreign ambassadors and diplomatic representatives to Thailand to brief the latter on the recent border clashes between Thailand and Cambodia. The said briefing was attended by diplomats from eight ASEAN member countries, five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council or UNSC, and three countries with important roles concerning the work of the World Heritage Committee (Japan, Switzerland and Bahrain). Gist as follows:
1. Foreign Minister Kasit remarked to the foreign ambassadors and diplomats that it was unfortunate that the 4 February incident took place right after the 7th Meeting of the Joint Commission on the Bilateral Cooperation between Thailand and Cambodia (JC) on 3-4 February 2011 had successfully concluded. At the JC meeting, both countries agreed to further promote their cooperation in all areas and to hold a meeting of the Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary (JBC) in Thailand as soon as possible.
2. The Foreign Minister reaffirmed that Thai troops responded only in self-defense. In doing so, the Thai troops had exercised maximum restraint and used force only as necessary, in a manner proportionate to the threat against them. Additionally, fire was directed only at military targets from where the attacks were launched by Cambodian troops. On the other hand, Thai civilians were severely affected by the recent clashes, which had caused loss of lives and injuries. More than 6,000 Thais residing in the border area had to be evacuated. The Ministry of Interior has been tasked to render assistance to them.
3. Thailand does not want to see the fighting escalate to the point that it would affect overall bilateral relations. Both countries have also used various channels of communication at all levels to resolve the current situation.
4. The Foreign Minister also informed the ambassadors and diplomatic representatives that the Royal Thai Government would send a note to the President of UNSC to inform all UNSC member countries about the situation and Thailand’s position.
5. Thailand noted the expressions of concern made by some countries regarding the situation. Most of them, including Mr. Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of ASEAN, urged restraint and avoidance of the use of force, which was in line with Thailand’s own position. Both the ASEAN Secretary-General and Mr. Marty M. Natalegawa, Indonesian Foreign Minister as the current ASEAN chair had telephoned Foreign Minister Kasit, with the Indonesian Foreign Minister scheduled to visit Thailand on 8 February 2011 to receive information regarding the situation.
In response to media inquiries whether the Indonesian Foreign Minister would visit Thailand to play a “mediator” role, the Foreign Ministry Spokesperson said that his visit would only be to obtain facts about the border clashes between Thailand and Cambodia, not to “mediate.”
6. The Foreign Minister reiterated that the recent clashes reflect the sensitivity surrounding Cambodia’s unilateral attempt to list the Temple of Phra Viharn as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In this regard, the World Heritage Committee (WHC) should postpone any consideration of the management plan proposed by Cambodia until the boundary negotiation under the JBC is concluded.
7. The Foreign Minister expressed his hope that the current border situation could be resolved quickly. He also asked the diplomats to report back to their capitals on the facts of what had transpired.
8. With regard to further action by the Royal Thai Government following Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s instruction to call on the WHC to postpone the consideration of the management plan in the area of Phra Viharn Temple, the Foreign Ministry Spokesperson stated that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had earlier sent a number of notes to the UNESCO Director-General, the latest one dated 24 January 2011. It had pointed out that the problem along the Thai-Cambodian border was a highly sensitive one and could cause international tension, and that the consideration of the management plan should therefore be postponed. After what has happened, Thailand would send another note to the UNESCO Director-General to express its concerns once again.
9. The Spokesperson said that since both countries intended to hold the next JBC meeting as soon as possible, this afternoon (5 February 2011) Foreign Minister Kasit would call Mr. Hor Namhong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia, to discuss the earliest mutually convenient date for the said meeting.