Thursday, July 7, 2011

Indonesian survey group here

July 7, 2011
Source: Bangkok Post

Foreign Ministry staff yesterday led Indonesian officials to survey the Thai-Cambodia border presumably in preparation for the arrival of 15 Indonesian observers, an army source said.

Earlier the Foreign Ministry had asked the army to have its Suranaree Task Force accompany the survey group, which arrived in the area yesterday.

The group was expected to inspect damage from the latest clashes between Thai and Cambodian soldiers near Si Sa Ket's Kantharalak district and Surin's Phanom Dong Rak district.

According to the source, the Foreign Ministry had said the survey team would not enter the 4.6-square-kilometre border area around the Phrea Vihear temple which is in dispute.

Still, the request for the Suranaree Task Force, made out of the blue, surprised the army, said the source. Army brass had assumed that any decision regarding the border issue would be left for the new government being formed by the Pheu Thai Party to handle.

Outgoing Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the army had earlier insisted that Cambodia withdraw its soldiers from the disputed border first before the Indonesian observers be allowed to monitor a ceasefire in the area.

In February, the two countries signed Indonesia's proposal to send its observers, mostly military officers, to the area. But the plan was delayed because of Bangkok's condition for the troop withdrawal.

In an abrupt turnaround, the Foreign Ministry recently asked the army to prepare for a meeting with the Indonesian observers, the source said. The ministry said that they would arrive "soon".

According to the source, the observers will stay for six months at a resort hotel in Kantharalak district, about 40km from the Hindu temple ruins.

The ministry is currently holding meetings with local officials and Surin residents to inform them of the government's stance in the long-running Thai-Cambodia border dispute.

Meanwhile, Cambodian soldiers stationed at the border welcomed news that Pheu Thai would take the helm of the government. They said the power change from the Abhisit administration to the pro-Thaksin party would lead to a less tense situation between the two countries.

A military unit leader based in the area said tension had eased considerably since the July 3 election.

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