As current chair of ASEAN, Indonesia has been invited to attend a UN Security Council (UNSC)meeting early next week on the territorial dispute between Cambodia and Thailand.
However, some analysts say the involvement of the UNSC in the matter proves ASEAN’s failure yet again in resolving conflicts between member states.
“Both the president of the Security Council and the UN Secretary-General expressed their appreciation to ASEAN and to Indonesia for [Indonesia’s] leadership in trying to manage the situation between Thailand and Cambodia,” Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told The Jakarta Post on Thursday after a meeting with experts.
Thailand and Cambodia blame each other for the clashes near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple, which was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in favor of Cambodia in July 2008.Marty met his counterparts Hor Namhong of Cambodia and Kasit Piromya of Thailand on Monday and Tuesday, respectively, in an effort to reduce tensions between the neighboring countries.
“No doubt at the forthcoming Security Council meeting [on Monday next week], both sides will present their case. But hopefully also at the same time, we will continue our efforts at the regional level to try to find a solution,” he said.
The issue must be addressed between the two sides, Marty added, but “that doesn’t mean that there is no role at the regional — or even global — level because ASEAN and even the global community can create conducive conditions and can strongly encourage both parties to solve the problems bilaterally”.
Thailand has insisted the matter would be discussed at the bilateral level, but Cambodia is insisting on a UNSC meeting. “It is the right of every member of the United Nations to call for a meeting at the Security Council. Cambodia has asked for the meeting and therefore the UN must fulfill that obligation,” Marty said.
ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said the attendance of the ASEAN chair at the UNSC meeting represented an evolution of ASEAN’s efforts to resolve bilateral disputes among member states as provided for by the ASEAN Charter.
“This is particularly important as it will set [a precedent] for future ASEAN dispute settlement mechanisms,” he said in a statement issued Thursday.
An ASEAN expert at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, Dewi Fortuna Anwar, said ASEAN would hopefully have new modalities in resolving conflicts between member states prior to the UNSC meeting. “What’s important here is that [the meeting] emphasizes the role of ASEAN in a regional system because ASEAN itself lacks experience [in handling] such conflicts,” she told the Post.
However, Parahyangan University international relations expert Bantarto Bandoro and Pelita Harapan University School of Social and Political Sciences dean Alexius Jemadu said ASEAN fell short of expectations in resolving conflicts among member states by involving a world organization.
Bantarto said Indonesia believed international pressure was key to settling the problem immediately.
“This proves Indonesia’s inability in mediating conflicts between ASEAN members,” he told the Post.
“Why isn’t Indonesia using forums that already exist in ASEAN, for example the High Council, in resolving the conflict? If ASEAN keeps escalating conflicts between members to the UNSC, ASEAN’s credibility will soon vanish.”