Showing posts tagged as "cambodia"

Showing posts tagged cambodia

26 Jul
Marking time on the Thai-Cambodian border conflict
by Jim Della-Giacoma
On 18 July 2011, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Thailand and Cambodia to “immediately withdraw their military personnel” in the provisional demilitarised zone (PDZ) it created around the Preah Vihear temple, scene of a long-festering territorial dispute between the two countries. Last week, a year to the day of that order, the two sides with some pomp and ceremony replaced the soldiers on these frontlines with police and paramilitary border guards. While the word “immediate” seems to have its own meaning in this part of the world, it is good news. This belated bilateral agreement is starting to defer to the court’s decision last year and it will turn down the temperature of this simmering conflict. It might also allow for the deployment of a neutral ASEAN observer force; Indonesian soldiers have been on stand-by to fulfil this role for over a year now – their deployment would mark a new and positive chapter in proactive ASEAN peacemaking.
Fighting around the World Heritage listed Preah Vihear and two other nearby border temples flared in February and April 2011. In a clash unusual for the region, two treaty allies and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) briefly went to war, exchanging tens of thousands of artillery rounds, including cluster munitions. The fighting in 2011 killed an estimated 28 people, maimed many others, and led to the temporary displacement of tens of thousands.
As we analysed in our December 2011 report Waging Peace: ASEAN and the Thai-Cambodian Border Conflict, the friction that led to the fighting fuelled by Thai domestic politics, much of the heat went out of this conflict after the change of government in Bangkok in July that year. But despite this political shift, the underlying conflict was not resolved and the situation on the border did not immediately change. It remained over-militarised and often unnecessarily tense. Earlier this month there were reports, later denied by the Thais, of Cambodian troops shooting at a circling Thai airliner thinking it was a surveillance drone. The border dispute can never be solved by force but only through painstaking talks and surveys that are needed for its final demarcation. Having soldiers too close to each other also impedes a long-term grand plan of making all of ASEAN’s border zones of economic “connectivity” rather than the frontlines as many of them were during the Cold War.
The withdrawal announcement came after a meeting on 13 July between Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart Yingluck Shinawatra in Siem Reap. Thai Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul then gave more details after a 16 July meeting that the Royal Thai Army also planned to redeploy troops from the area. His announcement followed talks between senior Thai security officials to discuss implementation of the ICJ order and the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the Indonesian Observers Team (IOT). This needed to be done before the 54-year-old case goes back to the ICJ for more oral arguments on 15 – 19 April 2013 related to the ongoing Cambodian request to have the court once and for all define the borderline around the temple. On 18 July, Cambodia Defence Minister Tea Banh made it official in a speech at the temple, where 485 Cambodian soldiers drove off, to be replaced with 255 policemen and 100 temple guards. The two sides say they are planning to jointly demine the PDZ.
In a landmark passage of its July 2011 judgement – it must not be forgotten – the ICJ also ordered the parties to allow ASEAN appointed observers from Indonesia to have access to the disputed area, effectively to be its eyes and ears. The regional organisation had earlier set its own precedent by agreeing to such a monitoring mission in February after the initial clashes around Preah Vihear. Foreign Minister Surapong said the 16 July meeting resolved that the foreign affairs and defence ministries would jointly consider the rules for the Indonesians before submitting it to cabinet. It would be forwarded to parliament for approval in accordance with Article 190 Paragraph 2 of the Constitution. As observed inWaging Peace, the turbulent domestic politics in Thailand and the cumbersome (and even questionable) constitutional process in that country have always been an obstacle. A Cambodia official told Crisis Group this week it is ready to unilaterally receive Indonesian observers, after having approved them in May last year. Indeed, it has a lonely officialwaiting and a post on the border ready to receive them replete with ASEAN and Indonesian flags flying.
While this conflict may be heading in the right direction, it is doing so slowly. Beyond questions of timing, the border dispute and the deployment of observers is another litmus test for the Yingluck administration and its relationship with the military. The agreement is a qualified triumph as once again the question is being asked: who is in charge? Thai military Supreme Commander General Thanasak Patimapakorn told reporters on 20 July that observers were no longer needed. There appears to be some political demining still to be completed on the Thai side. Just like in 2011, the supreme commander, whose office oversees border affairs, seems to be out of step with the civilian government. Speaking as if he were the foreign minister he said: “Indonesia considers that if the two countries can talk, they will have no need to come in, and this is also the two nations’ stance”.
But is there still a need for the Indonesians? Crisis Group believes observers are still important to verify any agreement and prevent future turmoil. They also seem to still be on the trilateral agenda. On 19 July, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa met inPhnom Penh with his veteran Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong to try and unravel another regional conflict in theSouth China Sea. A senior Indonesian official told Crisis Group that the ministers found time to discuss the plan to send observers to the Thai-Cambodian border, which was still being actively considered as they waited for the Thais to approve the TOR. In the meantime, the agreement to redeploy troops was a welcome development for South East Asia, with observers, anyway, just being a means to an end, which was peace.
This is coded language for all the parties not to expect too much, too soon. For foreigners living in Thailand this might be another illustration of “Thai time”, although Thais themselves would probably disagree that they have a punctuality problem. Indonesia, home to the culture of jam karet or rubber time, appears to be relaxed with this modest pace of progress. As Natalegawa becomes something of an expert on regional shuttle diplomacy, he knows all too well that even when ASEAN is “aggressively waging peace” it will do so at its own measured tempo.
Resolving Conflict in South East Asia

Marking time on the Thai-Cambodian border conflict

On 18 July 2011, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Thailand and Cambodia to “immediately withdraw their military personnel” in the provisional demilitarised zone (PDZ) it created around the Preah Vihear temple, scene of a long-festering territorial dispute between the two countries. Last week, a year to the day of that order, the two sides with some pomp and ceremony replaced the soldiers on these frontlines with police and paramilitary border guards. While the word “immediate” seems to have its own meaning in this part of the world, it is good news. This belated bilateral agreement is starting to defer to the court’s decision last year and it will turn down the temperature of this simmering conflict. It might also allow for the deployment of a neutral ASEAN observer force; Indonesian soldiers have been on stand-by to fulfil this role for over a year now – their deployment would mark a new and positive chapter in proactive ASEAN peacemaking.

Fighting around the World Heritage listed Preah Vihear and two other nearby border temples flared in February and April 2011. In a clash unusual for the region, two treaty allies and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) briefly went to war, exchanging tens of thousands of artillery rounds, including cluster munitions. The fighting in 2011 killed an estimated 28 people, maimed many others, and led to the temporary displacement of tens of thousands.

As we analysed in our December 2011 report Waging Peace: ASEAN and the Thai-Cambodian Border Conflict, the friction that led to the fighting fuelled by Thai domestic politics, much of the heat went out of this conflict after the change of government in Bangkok in July that year. But despite this political shift, the underlying conflict was not resolved and the situation on the border did not immediately change. It remained over-militarised and often unnecessarily tense. Earlier this month there were reports, later denied by the Thais, of Cambodian troops shooting at a circling Thai airliner thinking it was a surveillance drone. The border dispute can never be solved by force but only through painstaking talks and surveys that are needed for its final demarcation. Having soldiers too close to each other also impedes a long-term grand plan of making all of ASEAN’s border zones of economic “connectivity” rather than the frontlines as many of them were during the Cold War.

The withdrawal announcement came after a meeting on 13 July between Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart Yingluck Shinawatra in Siem Reap. Thai Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul then gave more details after a 16 July meeting that the Royal Thai Army also planned to redeploy troops from the area. His announcement followed talks between senior Thai security officials to discuss implementation of the ICJ order and the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the Indonesian Observers Team (IOT). This needed to be done before the 54-year-old case goes back to the ICJ for more oral arguments on 15 – 19 April 2013 related to the ongoing Cambodian request to have the court once and for all define the borderline around the temple. On 18 July, Cambodia Defence Minister Tea Banh made it official in a speech at the temple, where 485 Cambodian soldiers drove off, to be replaced with 255 policemen and 100 temple guards. The two sides say they are planning to jointly demine the PDZ.

In a landmark passage of its July 2011 judgement – it must not be forgotten – the ICJ also ordered the parties to allow ASEAN appointed observers from Indonesia to have access to the disputed area, effectively to be its eyes and ears. The regional organisation had earlier set its own precedent by agreeing to such a monitoring mission in February after the initial clashes around Preah Vihear. Foreign Minister Surapong said the 16 July meeting resolved that the foreign affairs and defence ministries would jointly consider the rules for the Indonesians before submitting it to cabinet. It would be forwarded to parliament for approval in accordance with Article 190 Paragraph 2 of the Constitution. As observed inWaging Peace, the turbulent domestic politics in Thailand and the cumbersome (and even questionable) constitutional process in that country have always been an obstacle. A Cambodia official told Crisis Group this week it is ready to unilaterally receive Indonesian observers, after having approved them in May last year. Indeed, it has a lonely officialwaiting and a post on the border ready to receive them replete with ASEAN and Indonesian flags flying.

While this conflict may be heading in the right direction, it is doing so slowly. Beyond questions of timing, the border dispute and the deployment of observers is another litmus test for the Yingluck administration and its relationship with the military. The agreement is a qualified triumph as once again the question is being asked: who is in charge? Thai military Supreme Commander General Thanasak Patimapakorn told reporters on 20 July that observers were no longer needed. There appears to be some political demining still to be completed on the Thai side. Just like in 2011, the supreme commander, whose office oversees border affairs, seems to be out of step with the civilian government. Speaking as if he were the foreign minister he said: “Indonesia considers that if the two countries can talk, they will have no need to come in, and this is also the two nations’ stance”.

But is there still a need for the Indonesians? Crisis Group believes observers are still important to verify any agreement and prevent future turmoil. They also seem to still be on the trilateral agenda. On 19 July, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa met inPhnom Penh with his veteran Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong to try and unravel another regional conflict in theSouth China Sea. A senior Indonesian official told Crisis Group that the ministers found time to discuss the plan to send observers to the Thai-Cambodian border, which was still being actively considered as they waited for the Thais to approve the TOR. In the meantime, the agreement to redeploy troops was a welcome development for South East Asia, with observers, anyway, just being a means to an end, which was peace.

This is coded language for all the parties not to expect too much, too soon. For foreigners living in Thailand this might be another illustration of “Thai time”, although Thais themselves would probably disagree that they have a punctuality problem. Indonesia, home to the culture of jam karet or rubber time, appears to be relaxed with this modest pace of progress. As Natalegawa becomes something of an expert on regional shuttle diplomacy, he knows all too well that even when ASEAN is “aggressively waging peace” it will do so at its own measured tempo.

Resolving Conflict in South East Asia

25 Jul
ICG Warns of Regional War | Bangkok Post
Tensions over competing claims in the South China Sea could escalate into conflict, with an arms build-up among rival nations raising the temperature, an international think tank warned Tuesday.
Prospects of solving the disputes “seem to be diminishing” after a recent failure by the 10-nation ASEAN grouping to hammer out a “code of conduct” that would govern actions in the sea, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said.
FULL ARTICLE (Bangkok Times)
Photo: Gunawan Kartapranata/ Wikimedia Commons

ICG Warns of Regional War | Bangkok Post

Tensions over competing claims in the South China Sea could escalate into conflict, with an arms build-up among rival nations raising the temperature, an international think tank warned Tuesday.

Prospects of solving the disputes “seem to be diminishing” after a recent failure by the 10-nation ASEAN grouping to hammer out a “code of conduct” that would govern actions in the sea, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said.

FULL ARTICLE (Bangkok Times)

Photo: Gunawan Kartapranata/ Wikimedia Commons

19 Mar
A year ago, Cambodia and Thailand fought a series of short but nasty skirmishes along their joint border. Efforts to reduce tensions through the deployment of Indonesian observers remain stillborn; one year on there are no observers and on the Cambodian side there is just a lone man with Indonesian and ASEAN flags blowing in the breeze.The dispute, centered on the emblematic Preah Vihear Temple — in Cambodian territory but down the years oft-claimed by Thailand — was serious enough to seize the attention of the UN Security Council. It also triggered signs that ASEAN wanted a more proactive role in ensuring stability in its region. This optimism, however, has given way to stasis and further questioning of the organization’s ability to look after its own backyard.Earlier this month, I met an official from Cambodia’s National Task Force whose job is to prepare the ground for the observers’ arrival. After I traveled four hours north from Siem Reap, home of the famous Angkor ruins, he picked me up in his new Mitsubishi flat bed with ASEAN logo decals and license plate: IOT 3.IOT is for Indonesia Observer Team. Under the terms of reference signed by Cambodia in May 2011 ahead of the ASEAN Summit in Jakarta, there were to be 15 Indonesian soldiers and civilians on either side of the border. Thailand has not signed the agreement and it never came into force. Then foreign minister Kasit Piromya initially announced Bangkok’s agreement to the observer mission’s deployment but objections from the military caused the historic deal to falter. First, Thailand quibbled over the team’s location, their name, their diplomatic status and what they would wear. Then Thai generals said they would not accept Indonesian soldiers in uniform on their soil as it was an affront to their sovereignty.A special meeting convened by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on the sidelines of the summit could not remove the roadblock. A July 2011 decision of the International Court of Justice ordering their deployment was ignored. The narrow interests of the Thai military trumped ASEAN’s potential collective goal of coming up with a working mechanism to deal with violent conflict within its own membership.Back in Cambodia’s far north, on the border near Preah Vihear, bored Cambodian soldiers stare across the valley at their Thai counterparts; who seem, likewise, to have little else to do but in turn stare back. To occupy their time they eat, sleep, converse, play cards; it is too brutally hot to exercise. Some say they just want to go home.After visiting the World Heritage temple site, we visited the empty headquarters of the ASEAN Mission for Cease-Fire Observation. The red and white Indonesian flag is everywhere. Had the Indonesians arrived, I asked? No. What did my guide do all day? He waited for the Indonesians, was the response; he did not expect them anytime soon. This poor fellow, originally from Kompong Cham, Cambodia’s border province with Vietnam many miles away, was like a sad facsimile of a character from a Conrad novel — sent out to the back of beyond by his bosses and, perhaps, forgotten.A few days after my visit, on March 5, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and his Indonesian opposite number Marty Natalegawa met in Phnom Penh and reportedly discussed the IOT, but most officials in the capital seemed to want to forget about this problem in the year that is Cambodia’s turn to chair ASEAN, and as Phnom Penh’s efforts to secure a temporary seat on the UN Security Council intensify. Such is his life that my friend from the National Task Force waits for something that may never arrive. But even if they were deployed, the observers would only solve part of the problem, as their area of operations only covers Preah Vihear and its environs, particularly the almost 18 square km provisional demilitarized area created by the ICJ decision. Around 150 km to the west, troops from both countries face off against each other around the more obscure temples of Ta Moan and Ta Krabei. They are heavily armed, well dug-in, and so close that at Ta Moan they even share the same shade from the trees. This is not sustainable — it is simply too risky that firefights could be triggered, even if only accidentally. Visiting Ta Moan, it was difficult to accept that Thailand and Cambodia, under the ASEAN umbrella, had sworn undying friendship toward each other.The world’s focus has shifted elsewhere, but here on this disputed frontier the conflict continues. The week before my visit gunshots terrified the residents of a nearby town; they turned out only to be soldiers shooting harmlessly into the air — last year’s fighting suggests such noises might not always be so benign.But rather than wait for the conflict to reignite and cause problems again for Cambodia, Thailand and ASEAN, there is a first step that could be taken toward preventing future misunderstandings and violent conflict — deploy the observers. The flags are flying, the maps are posted, vehicles are fueled and, on the border, there is a lonely Cambodian official ready and waiting to provide a welcome.The writer is the senior policy advisor at the International Crisis Group based in Brussels.
READ ARTICLE (Jakarta Post)
Photo: lokryan/Flickr

A year ago, Cambodia and Thailand fought a series of short but nasty skirmishes along their joint border. Efforts to reduce tensions through the deployment of Indonesian observers remain stillborn; one year on there are no observers and on the Cambodian side there is just a lone man with Indonesian and ASEAN flags blowing in the breeze.

The dispute, centered on the emblematic Preah Vihear Temple — in Cambodian territory but down the years oft-claimed by Thailand — was serious enough to seize the attention of the UN Security Council. 

It also triggered signs that ASEAN wanted a more proactive role in ensuring stability in its region. This optimism, however, has given way to stasis and further questioning of the organization’s ability to look after its own backyard.

Earlier this month, I met an official from Cambodia’s National Task Force whose job is to prepare the ground for the observers’ arrival. 

After I traveled four hours north from Siem Reap, home of the famous Angkor ruins, he picked me up in his new Mitsubishi flat bed with ASEAN logo decals and license plate: IOT 3.

IOT is for Indonesia Observer Team. Under the terms of reference signed by Cambodia in May 2011 ahead of the ASEAN Summit in Jakarta, there were to be 15 Indonesian soldiers and civilians on either side of the border. 

Thailand has not signed the agreement and it never came into force. Then foreign minister Kasit Piromya initially announced Bangkok’s agreement to the observer mission’s deployment but objections from the military caused the historic deal to falter. 

First, Thailand quibbled over the team’s location, their name, their diplomatic status and what they would wear. Then Thai generals said they would not accept Indonesian soldiers in uniform on their soil as it was an affront to their sovereignty.

A special meeting convened by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on the sidelines of the summit could not remove the roadblock. A July 2011 decision of the International Court of Justice ordering their deployment was ignored. 

The narrow interests of the Thai military trumped ASEAN’s potential collective goal of coming up with a working mechanism to deal with violent conflict within its own membership.

Back in Cambodia’s far north, on the border near Preah Vihear, bored Cambodian soldiers stare across the valley at their Thai counterparts; who seem, likewise, to have little else to do but in turn stare back. To occupy their time they eat, sleep, converse, play cards; it is too brutally hot to exercise. Some say they just want to go home.

After visiting the World Heritage temple site, we visited the empty headquarters of the ASEAN Mission for Cease-Fire Observation. The red and white Indonesian flag is everywhere. Had the Indonesians arrived, I asked? 

No. What did my guide do all day? He waited for the Indonesians, was the response; he did not expect them anytime soon. This poor fellow, originally from Kompong Cham, Cambodia’s border province with Vietnam many miles away, was like a sad facsimile of a character from a Conrad novel — sent out to the back of beyond by his bosses and, perhaps, forgotten.

A few days after my visit, on March 5, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and his Indonesian opposite number Marty Natalegawa met in Phnom Penh and reportedly discussed the IOT, but most officials in the capital seemed to want to forget about this problem in the year that is Cambodia’s turn to chair ASEAN, and as Phnom Penh’s efforts to secure a temporary seat on the UN Security Council intensify. Such is his life that my friend from the National Task Force waits for something that may never arrive. 

But even if they were deployed, the observers would only solve part of the problem, as their area of operations only covers Preah Vihear and its environs, particularly the almost 18 square km provisional demilitarized area created by the ICJ decision.

 Around 150 km to the west, troops from both countries face off against each other around the more obscure temples of Ta Moan and Ta Krabei. They are heavily armed, well dug-in, and so close that at Ta Moan they even share the same shade from the trees. 

This is not sustainable — it is simply too risky that firefights could be triggered, even if only accidentally. Visiting Ta Moan, it was difficult to accept that Thailand and Cambodia, under the ASEAN umbrella, had sworn undying friendship toward each other.

The world’s focus has shifted elsewhere, but here on this disputed frontier the conflict continues. The week before my visit gunshots terrified the residents of a nearby town; they turned out only to be soldiers shooting harmlessly into the air — last year’s fighting suggests such noises might not always be so benign.

But rather than wait for the conflict to reignite and cause problems again for Cambodia, Thailand and ASEAN, there is a first step that could be taken toward preventing future misunderstandings and violent conflict — deploy the observers. 

The flags are flying, the maps are posted, vehicles are fueled and, on the border, there is a lonely Cambodian official ready and waiting to provide a welcome.

The writer is the senior policy advisor at the International Crisis Group based in Brussels.

READ ARTICLE (Jakarta Post)

Photo: lokryan/Flickr

27 Feb

Temple conflict isn’t over; observers are still needed

Jim Della-Giacoma


The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) looked to be on the cusp of making history when its foreign ministers met on February 22, 2011 to discuss the unprecedented fighting between two member states. Thailand and Cambodia were exchanging enough artillery fire around the disputed Preah Vihear temple for some to call it a war.

Indonesia convened the ministers’ meeting in an activist moment of preventative diplomacy that made a ground-breaking decision to deploy observers to monitor the ceasefire. But a year later, with no boots on the ground, this hollow victory has left Asean looking weaker, raised questions over whether the conflict is really over, and left a cloud over Thailand’s international reputation.

It was the civilian Abhisit government that approved the observers ahead of the meeting, and then foreign minister Kasit Piromya who subsequently announced that Thailand would welcome the deployment of Indonesian monitors, but it did not take long for this sweet regional diplomatic triumph to turn sour.

The Thai military spoiled the moment by blocking them on the grounds that having foreigners on its soil would be an affront to national sovereignty.

In the face of such a strong sense of nationalism, it is now a hard case to make that Thailand should live up to its obligations made a year ago and allow the deployment of observers.

Within Asean itself, many have given up on this idea. There is little traction for such arguments in Bangkok that Thailand should worry about its international reputation when the political culture is so inward looking. But until observers are there, it remains on the record that Thailand is undermining the UN Security Council, ignoring Asean, and defying an order of the International Court of Justice, none of which are the mark of international good citizenship.

Undoubtedly, the calculation has been made in Bangkok that giving in to the powerful military’s nationalistic arguments about “sovereignty” trumps the benefits of following international law. But Thailand should try to resist such rogue tendencies and aspire to think of the longer-term consequences of its actions. As a member of a regional economic community with growing common interests ahead of the 2015 integration deadline, it should act the way it wants others to behave the next time Thailand has an agenda to advance that requires cooperation from its neighbours.

Times are changing and Asean’s borders will soon be more like zones of economic cooperation and trade rather than Cold War battle lines.

With the guns silent and the General Border Committee and Joint Border Committee having recently met, some now see monitors as redundant and argue that the problem is solved and best left as a bilateral matter. But such pragmatism is too myopic and it misses the larger significance of the February 22 meeting as a precedent for how Asean can address future conflicts. It also denies the fact that the dispute is actually still unresolved. While this is the case, the border issue is out there and susceptible to future manipulation for domestic political purposes. Until definitively demilitarised, a formal ceasefire in place, and border demarcation resumes, it cannot be assumed that it impossible for fighting to restart. Asean needs to have a working political mechanism to avoid flare-ups and solve such conflicts, as well as the means to properly monitor any agreements. In this context, observers are invaluable, including as an early warning system.

The inability to follow through with an agreement has undermined the credibility of the regional grouping. It also puts a question mark over Thailand’s commitment to the regional body and important concepts such as the rule of law that should govern it. The July 2011 order of the International Court of Justice creating a provisional demilitarised zone was legally binding on Thailand and Cambodia. The court delegated the Asean observers to be its eyes and ears on the ground until it could hear the substantive case on the request for an interpretation on its 1962 ruling on the border around the Preah Vihear temple.

Thailand does have something to gain from allowing observers to deploy. It could help stop further internationalisation of the conflict. To defy this order so blatantly shows unnecessary disrespect for international institutions but also risks bringing the matter back to the UN Security Council, which acts like a court of last resort in these cases. Monitors would create a sense that all sides are being watched, which would encourage all sides to be on their best behaviour. The Thais have claimed in the past that the Cambodian military has been provocative, and monitors could provide the evidence of such alleged transgressions. They could help solve often-controversial claims and counter-claims about who shot first.

In the end, we cannot start to think the conflict is over until observers are on the ground. The history of this conflict since 2008 is one of many meetings, expressions of goodwill, and statements of friendship often followed within hours by the boom of artillery and the retort of rifle fire. There is no certainty this dispute is on the way to being resolved until the two parties start to dramatically change and stop deploying their armies against each other on their shared frontier. The deployment of observers would change the pattern of behaviour and be a clear sign that it is no longer business as usual on the border.

READ ARTICLE (International Crisis Group)

Photo:  jzielcke/Flickr

9 Dec

Weekly Update for the Week of 4 December 2011

REPORTS

Brčko Unsupervised
The international community should start a process to close its supervision of Bosnia’s Brčko District at its meeting next week and develop a new strategy to better help domestic institutions address governance challenges and corruption, while retaining the ability to sanction any attempts to undermine security. Босански (8 December)

Waging Peace: ASEAN and the Thai-Cambodian Border Conflict
The violent border clashes between Thailand and Cambodia earlier this year have challenged the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to turn its rhetoric into action, but to achieve peace and security more robust diplomacy is required to end a still unresolved conflict. ไทย (6 December)

More reports


URGENT MEDIA RELEASE

DR Congo: Saving the Elections
A week after presidential and legislative polls, the Democratic Republic of Congo faces a political crisis that could plunge it back into major violence. Preliminary results, expected today, risk sparking opposition protests that, in turn, prompt heavy-handed repression by Congolese security forces and wider disorder. To avert violence, Congolese authorities must take urgent measures to salvage a reasonably representative result out of a badly flawed process. The United Nations, African Union and European Union must work together to mediate with Congolese leaders a way out of the crisis. Communiqué en français (8 December)  


COMMENTARY

Côte d’Ivoire : Laurent Gbagbo, la CPI et le “gban-gban” salvateur
Gilles Yabi, Jeune Afrique, 9 décembre

La guerre et la décomposition planent sur le Soudan d’Al-Bachir
Alain Délétroz, Le Temps, 8 décembre

Ethnic Interests Could Trump Economic Sense
Joost Hiltermann, Financial Times, 7 December

US Troop Withdrawal from Iraq
Joost Hiltermann, Conservative Middle East Council, 5 December

Más allá de la diplomacia: retos en la frontera Colombo-Venezolana
Silke Pfeiffer & Hugo Eduardo Ramírez, La Razón Pública, 4 de diciembre

More commentary


PODCAST

CrisisWatch N°100
This month’s podcast reviews developments for the month of November, highlighting conflict risk alerts in DR Congo and in Syria, and deteriorated situations in Afghanistan, Burundi, Kosovo, Pakistan, South Sudan and Sudan. Situations improved in Burma/Myanmar, Morrocco, Nepal and Tunisia. (6 December)

More podcasts


INTERVIEWS

Invité Afrique: Gilles Yabi
Gilles Yabi, directeur du projet Afrique de l’Ouest d’International Crisis Group, analyse la stratégie et l’attitude de l’ancien président ivoirien Laurent Gbagbo, lors de sa première audience lundi à la Cour pénale internationale à La Haye. (7 décembre)

Invité spécial de la rédaction: Alain Délétroz
Alain Délétroz, vice-président d’International Crisis Group, analyse les conflits en Libye, Syrie et Côte d’Ivoire. Il déplore notamment le dernier discours du président syrien Bachar Al-Assad, dans lequel aucune réforme n’a été annoncée. (6 décembre)

Invité Afrique: Thierry Vircoulon
Avant la proclamation du vainqueur de l’élection présidentielle en République Démocratique du Congo, Thierry Vircoulon, directeur du projet Afrique centrale d’International Crisis Group, revient sur la crédibilité des chiffres de la Commission électorale nationale indépendante. (6 décembre)


VIDEO

Sudan: The Rebel Alliance
A new alliance of Darfur rebel groups with the declared goal of regime change threatens the Doha peace process. Fouad Hikmat, Crisis Group’s African Union and Sudan Special Adviser, explains that if the peace process is to have any chance of success, it must be inclusive. (7 December)

More videos


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EVENTS

In Pursuit of Peace Award Dinner
New York, 16 December 2011

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Save the Date: Crisis Group Asia Briefings 2012
Singapore & Jakarta, 21 - 23 February 2012

Crisis Group is pleased to announce its next Asia Briefings will take place in Singapore and Jakarta on 21 and 23 February 2012. These one-day, high-level events will be led by Crisis Group’s senior staff and examine urgent issues and solutions concerning major conflict flashpoints across the region. The briefing offers participants the opportunity to hear from and interact with specialists on a wide range of issues including extremism and conflict in Indonesia, political reforms and polarisation in Myanmar and Thailand and security concerns across the Korean Peninsula and South China Sea.

For more information and to reserve your seat, please contact events@crisisgroup.org. Early-bird registration available at a discounted rate through 31 December 2011.


8 Dec

AlertNet: ASEAN must tackle risk of Thailand, Cambodia fighting –report

By Thin Lei Win

BANGKOK (AlertNet) – Asia’s regional bloc must deploy tougher diplomacy to fend off risks of renewed fighting between Thailand and Cambodia, where border clashes killed dozens and displaced tens of thousands earlier this year, said International Crisis Group (ICG).

While fighting hasn’t taken place on the border since May, the ceasefires in place are mostly verbal and unsigned, ICG, a non-governmental organisation aiming to prevent and resolve conflicts, said in its latest report: “Waging Peace: ASEAN and the Thai-Cambodian Border Conflict.”

“Until troops are withdrawn, independent observers deployed and border negotiations resumed, the risk of new fighting remains,” ICG South East Asia Analyst Rungrawee Chalermsripinyorat said.

The report said efforts by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to end the dispute have so far reaped few significant achievements, and that clashes have challenged the bloc to finally turn its rhetoric on peace and security into action.

“The Thai-Cambodian conflict remains an active challenge for ASEAN, which must achieve a certifiable peace on this disputed border if it wishes to keep its own region secure in the future,” the report added.

At the centre of the last flare-up in April are two 12th-century stone-walled Hindu temples, Ta Moan and Ta Krabey, in a heavily mined jungle area that both sides claim.

50-YEAR-OLD DISPUTE

The dispute over jurisdiction has been ongoing since the 1950s. Another, more significant temple, the 11th-century Preah Vihear, was awarded to Cambodia in 1962 by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), although Thai nationalists still bristle at the way the decision was made.

Thailand is challenging Cambodia’s listing of the ruins as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and its management plans, because the ICJ did not rule on the 4.6 square kilometres (1.8 square miles) of land around it.

Thai movements opposing the country’s former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had used the UNESCO listing issue to whip up nationalist sentiments, the report said. Thaksin was deposed in a 2006 coup and his sister now leads the country.

Later, in 2008, ultra-nationalist “yellow shirts” argued that Thaksin’s proxy administration in power at the time of the listing had sold out their motherland and committed treason.

According to the report, the emotionally charged campaigns in Thailand halted border demarcation and sparked a bilateral conflict.

CONFLICT UNRESOLVED

After the outbreak of hostilities in 2011, the United Nations Security Council set a precedent by referring the issue back to ASEAN.

Its then chair, Indonesia, showing “energetic and bold leadership” helped get both sides to agree to receive teams of Indonesian observers to monitor a ceasefire.

However, this is yet to be implemented, the report said, after Thailand backtracked due to the military’s resistance to having observers. The situation has not changed, despite expectations of a possible ceasefire when Yingluck Shinawatra’s government was elected in July 2011.

“Even a ruling by ICJ that ordered the creation of a provisional demilitarised zone around the temple and called on ASEAN to monitor a troop withdrawal did not remove political obstacles,” the report said.

This is partly because the government was overwhelmed by some of the worst floods Thailand has seen in decades, the report added. With the waters now subsiding, the report said Thailand and Cambodia “need to recommit to complying with the ICJ decision as soon as possible.”

“Hostilities will not truly have been ended until there is a written ceasefire and observers are present to witness the withdrawal of troops as mandated by ASEAN and ordered by the ICJ,” it said.

“With a history of broken verbal ceasefires, the existing gentlemen’s agreements between frontline commanders (are) insufficient.”

AlertNet

6 Dec

Waging Peace: ASEAN and the Thai-Cambodian Border Conflict

Bangkok/Jakarta/Brussels  |   6 Dec 2011

The violent border clashes between Thailand and Cambodia earlier this year have challenged the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to turn its rhetoric into action, but to achieve peace and security more robust diplomacy is required to end a still unresolved conflict.

Waging Peace: ASEAN and the Thai-Cambodian Border Conflict, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, analyses the politics of the dispute and the role of the ten-nation regional body. Cambodia’s attempt to list the Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site came against the backdrop of turmoil in Thai politics sparked by the 2006 coup that ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The yellow-shirted People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) used the issue to whip up nationalist sentiments against the subsequent Thaksin-back government and Cambodia in 2008, halting border demarcation and setting off the deadly bilateral confrontation.

ASEAN’s engagement under Indonesia’s chairmanship after fighting in 2011 produced scores of casualties and displaced tens of thousand civilians broke new ground by deciding to dispatch observers to monitor a conflict between member states. But despite an order from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in July, deployment has yet to take place.  

“ASEAN aimed to stop hostilities and restart negotiations when it engaged in the Preah Vihear dispute. While fighting on the Thai-Cambodian border has ceased since May, the ceasefire in place remains fragile”, says Rungrawee Chalermsripinyorat, Crisis Group South East Asia Analyst. “Until troops are withdrawn, independent observers deployed and border negotiations resumed, the risk of new fighting remains”.

Although the ICJ  awarded the eleventh-century temple to Cambodia in 1962, Thailand still claims the area in its immediate vicinity, as the border has not been demarcated. The almost dormant dispute came back to life after the PAD accused the Thaksin-allied government of treason for supporting  Cambodia’s bid to list  the ancient Hindu temple ruins as a  World Heritage site. After the listing was approved in  2008, border clashes began and tensions were fuelled by the domestic political conflicts in Bangkok.

Following the first deadly clashes in 2011, Cambodia brought the conflict to the UN Security Council, which asked ASEAN to take the lead in resolving it. The regional body, with Thai and Cambodian consent, agreed to deploy Indonesian observers, but the initiative has been blocked by the parochial Thai military, which views it as a violation of Thai sovereignty.

With a history of broken piecemeal and mostly verbal ceasefires, peace will not be truly secured until there is a comprehensive written ceasefire. As the General Border Committee, the defence minister-led bilateral forum, is scheduled to meet soon after some delays, both countries should expedite the negotiation and  start dispatching observers and withdrawing troops as ordered by the ICJ as soon as possible.  Moreover, this border dispute underlines that ASEAN should be prepared to take more proactive and urgent action to prevent open hostilities between member states.

“In trying to resolve the Thai-Cambodian clash, ASEAN, under Indonesia’s leadership, has laid out a methodology for dealing with future problems”, says Jim Della-Giacoma, Crisis Group South East Asia Project Director. “But this conflict remains a live challenge. ASEAN must achieve a certifiable peace on the disputed border, if it wishes to keep its own region secure in the future”.

FULL REPORT