Mustaqim Adamrah and Abdul Khalik,
The Jakarta Post, Nusa Dua/Jakarta
Indonesia is expected to escalate efforts to mediate the ongoing border conflict between Cambodia and Thailand when it hosts two ASEAN meetings in Nusa Dua, Bali, next week.
Expectations are also high for Indonesia to seek a role in mediating the Korean Peninsula conflict and the South China Sea dispute at the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM) and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the largest security forum in the Asia-Pacific.
Foreign ministers from every ASEAN country except Thailand are expected to attend the AMM, while representatives of all 27 ARF members, including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have confirmed their participation.
However, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said there would be no talks to diffuse the Korean Peninsula situation despite the expected presence of foreign ministers from all the nations of the Six Party Talks — China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea and the US.
“To avoid any misunderstandings, there is no plan for a Six Party Talks meeting in Bali. Everyone will be there, but they are not going to meet in Bali,” Marty said as quoted by Reuters.
On the Thai-Cambodia dispute, Marty said he expected that the two nations would resume discussions after a new Thai government was formed in the wake of that nation’s election on July 3.
“We have to assure that the situation remains calm,” Marty told a press conference at the ministry on Thursday. “We’ll see what the new Thai government’s new policies will be. Hopefully, they will show their openness.”
However, the Thai-Cambodia border conflict will likely remain one of the issues to be discussed during the AMM when the meeting begins on Tuesday, with Indonesia, the current holder of ASEAN’s rotating chair, setting a lower bar for results in settling the conflict.
Ade Padmo Sarwono, the Foreign Ministry’s director for ASEAN political and security cooperation, said the border row would likely be raised in Bali.
“It is likely for the AMM to raise the Thai-Cambodia issue because we discussed that in a special [ASEAN] meeting on Feb. 22 and again following the ASEAN Summit [in May],” Ade told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
The Thai-Cambodia border conflict might be raised among other regional and international issues during the exchange of views session, he said.
According to a source at the Embassy of Thailand to Indonesia, outgoing Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya would not attend the meetings in Bali.
Thailand would instead be represented by Chitriya Pinthong, the Thai Foreign Ministry’s deputy permanent secretary for foreign affairs and acting leader of the ARF senior officials’ meeting, according to the source.
Ade said that Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong would come to Bali after visiting the Hague for a hearing session at the International Court of Justice on Monday although he could not confirm if Hor would attend the AMM.
Repeated skirmishes have claimed 23 lives along the Thai-Cambodian border in the vicinity of three ancient temples — Preah Vihear, Ta Moan and Ta Krabey.
Bilateral negotiations between the conflicting parties have stalled since weeks before the Thai elections, which saw the landslide victory of Yingluck Shinawatra’s Puea Thai Party — also the party of Yingluck’s brother, former prime minister and graft fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra.
University of Indonesia Southeast Asian political expert Cecep Hidayat said the absence of the Thai foreign minister, although understandable, would definitely result in no consensus over the Thai-Cambodia conflict.
“There will be no improvements or developments if one of the conflicting parties is not present,” he told the Post.
“But at least it is an issue that is worth resolving if it’s discussed at a regional level. They can keep the results for later.”