Monday, May 09, 2011 11:48 AM
Monday May 9, 2011

Mergawati Zulfakar

The Star Online (Malaysia)


JAKARTA: Asean leaders who ended their 18th summit here have given strong support to Indonesia as the current Asean chair to continue mediating in the bloody border dispute between Cambodia and Thailand.

The leaders, concerned over the clashes which overshadowed the weekend summit, reiterated their stand during a retreat yesterday that they wanted the dispute to be resolved amicably.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib said Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono chaired a trilateral meeting with the Thai and Cambodian leaders before the retreat.

“At the retreat, all Asean leaders expressed their views that this matter should be resolved in the Asean neighbourly spirit.

“The leaders are confident that the role of Indonesia as Asean chair and mediator to the conflict, will ensure that negotiation will be the best solution accepted by Asean,” he told the Malaysian media here.

Cambodian leader Hun Sen took aim at his Thai counterpart Abhisit Vejjajiva in a closed-door session on Saturday.

Hun Sen admitted after yesterday's meeting that the row was “spoiling” the South-East Asian summit, which was supposed to focus on efforts to create a harmonised regional economic community by 2015.

“Everyone knows that the problem of the Thai-Cambodia border has been spoiling the atmosphere and also creates a challenge for Asean,” he told a press conference after the meeting.

Hun Sen had earlier accused accused Thailand of invading Cambodia and seeking to prolong the conflict “in order to violate weaker neighbouring Asean members”.

“The invasion of the Thai troops into Cambodia's territory resulted in a series of clashes and eventually a large-scale war from Feb 4 to Feb 7,” he told the other Asean leaders.

Around 18 people have been killed and 85,000 have been temporarily displaced in weeks of clashes over ownership of a small patch of territory surrounding an 11th-century Khmer temple. The temple itself belongs to Cambodia.

Abhisit in his defence said Thailand had no intention to have conflicts and expressed disappointment over Hun Sen's remarks.

“I accept that the issue could affect the credibility of Asean. We must therefore make sure that any problem should be solved, locally, bilaterally and if needed with the facilitation of the region,” he said.

“Thailand recognises full well that any conflict between Asean member states can undermine Asean's community-building efforts.

Najib also touched on Myanmar being given the Asean chair in 2014, saying Susilo would visit Myanmar and Asean would wait for his assessment report.

Commenting on reports that Asean was criticised for the move, the Prime Minister said Myanmar had implemented changes and had undergone changes.

“We will always encourage Myanmar to continue with its reconciliation process and hope the situation there will improve,” he added.

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