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Cambodia To Seek Asean as Witness to Ceasefire

Prime Minister Hun Sen, right, shakes hands with Thai Deputy Prime Minister Trairong Suwankiri, left, in the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said Thursday Cambodia will seek a ceasefire to be signed with Thailand when Asean ministers meet in Jakarta next week.

Following a meeting with Thai Deputy Prime Minister Trairong Suwankiri on Thursday, Hun Sen told reporters that Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong will seek a ceasefire to be signed with Asean foreign ministers as witnesses.

The move comes following a UN Security Council session on Monday, when the international body urged a “permanent ceasefire” between the two countries in the wake of deadly border clashes earlier this month. The Security Council also said Asean, which is led this year by Indonesia, could be a mediator.

Hun Sen has categorized the fighting as “a small war” between the two countries.

“If the Asean chairman signs onto a ceasefire agreement with Cambodian and Thai foreign ministers, it is good,” Hun Sen said. “But it is in the negotiation process.”

Thailand has said it prefers a bilateral resolution to an ongoing border dispute, where it claims ownership of a small stretch of land near Preah Vihear temple. Cambodia also claims the land.

Hun Sen said a ceasefire would include four main points: that both sides agree to a lasting end to fighting; that they both retain current troop levels on the border; that border commanders continue open talks; and that Asean monitor the ceasefire.

Hun Sen said he did not expect Thailand to agree to the last point, in which case Cambodia will seek Asean “peacekeepers” on the Cambodian side of the border “to observe and ensure the ceasefire.”

Hope of a ceasefire was welcomed by soldiers and residents near the border Thursday.

“I and other villagers are very happy if the ceasefire really happens,” said Prak Phy, a village chief in Preah Vihear province’s Chaom Ksan district. “Villagers who fled the fighting will go back home, meet their family members and continue their daily business, because the farming season will come soon.”