Malaysia’s defense minister met with his Cambodian counterpart this week, emerging from talks to express his hopes that the conflict on the Thai border will be resolved.
The International Court of Justice ruled earlier this month that Thailand and Cambodia should establish an Asean-observed demilitarized zone near Preah Vihear temple, around which deadly clashes have sporadically occurred since July 2008.
Malaysian Defense Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told reporters Thursday that the court’s judgment served as an opportunity for Asean to help bring peace to the border conflict.
“We would like to congratulate both countries, Cambodia and Thailand, for being given the opportunity to maintain peace and stability,” he said.
Implementation of the court’s decision has stalled, however, with Thailand yet to establish a government following July elections.
Indonesia, as head of Asean, is waiting to send an observer mission to the border, as called for by the international court. Hamidi said Indonesia is now working on a plan for the mission.
Thailand, meanwhile, is seeking a bilateral meeting with Cambodia through a border committee to move a troop withdrawal forward, the Bangkok Post reported Thursday.
However, Chhum Socheath, a spokesman for the Cambodian Ministry of Defense, said a bilateral meeting at this stage “cannot work,” and such talks must now include Asean.
“Thailand must respect the decision of the International Court of Justice,” he said.
The border remains a contentious issue for both sides. Thailand’s governmental human rights body said Friday it would begin investigation into allegations of more than 20 extrajudicial killings of Cambodian civilians along the border over the last four years.