UN urges `permanent` Thai-Cambodia ceasefire

The UN Security Council has called for a "permanent ceasefire" between Thailand and Cambodia after a border dispute erupted into deadly clashes last week around a Hindu temple.

Last Updated: Feb 15, 2011, 10:07 AM IST

United Nations: The UN Security Council has called for a "permanent ceasefire" between Thailand and Cambodia after a border dispute erupted into deadly clashes last week around a Hindu temple.

Council president Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti of Brazil made the call after a closed door session with the foreign ministers of Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia, which has attempted to mediate the conflict.

"Members of the Security Council urge the parties to establish a permanent ceasefire and to implement it fully," she said.

Viotti said council members expressed "great concern" over the clashes and "called on the two sides to display maximum restraint and avoid any action that may aggravate the situation."

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong had gone into the meeting seeking a "permanent ceasefire" while Thailand, represented by Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, had insisted that the two neighbors settle the dispute among themselves.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegwa, who has tried to mediate the dispute, also participated in the Security Council session.

Viotti said the council supported the Indonesian mediation efforts.

"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," she said.

The two Southeast Asian neighbors blame each other for the crisis, which left at least 10 dead, including seven Cambodians, in clashes with heavy weapons last week.

They are fighting over a border area that surrounds the Preah Vihear temple, an 11th century cliff-top ruin that belongs to Cambodia but whose designation as a World Heritage site touched off the ire of Thai nationalists.

While Cambodia won support for a permanent ceasefire, the council did not endorse its request to deploy UN peacekeepers into the contested area.

The Cambodian foreign minister accused Thailand of using internationally outlawed bombs and submunitions in the conflict.

"We deny all of that and we did not shoot first. It was a response," Kasit responded.

The Thai minister said there was no need for UN peacekeepers, and said that option had not been discussed in the Security Council session.

On Sunday, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said his foreign minister would insist that the crisis be settled on a bilateral basis without outside intervention.

Kasit said he had not met one-on-one with his Cambodian counterpart in New York, but that there would be an opportunity to do so during a meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers in Jakarta on February 22.

"Obviously, this is a matter that will have to be resolved in final analysis bilaterally between the two sides but it does not mean there is not a space and a role for regional countries to play," Indonesia`s foreign minister said.

Thailand has laid the blame for the crisis on UNESCO`s decision to declare the temple ruins a World Heritage site even though the land around it is disputed.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia, but both countries claim ownership of a 1.8-square-mile (4.6-square-kilometer) surrounding area.

"The war was not caused by the listing of the temple, but by Thailand`s invasion of Cambodian territory," said Cambodian spokesman Koy Kuong. "They want not only the territory, but also the temple."

Spectacularly situated atop a 1,722-foot (525-meter) cliff, the temple is considered the finest example of ancient Khmer architecture outside of Cambodia`s Angkor Wat.

Cambodia said a week ago that a wing of the temple had collapsed due to Thai artillery shelling.

But an AFP photographer who visited the site following four days of cross-border shelling in the area said Thursday that no major structural damage was visible, though shrapnel and artillery fire appeared to have scarred the temple.

PTI