The Multilateralist

Thai-Cambodia dispute flares; ASEAN burned

As sporadic fighting continues between Thai and Cambodian forces, ASEAN secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan is worried that the regional organization’s mediation effort may be crumbling: "We thought we had responded effectively to the call of the U.N. Security Council’s with our own ASEAN’s approach to the problem of our two member states," said Pitsuwan. "The renewed ...

As sporadic fighting continues between Thai and Cambodian forces, ASEAN secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan is worried that the regional organization's mediation effort may be crumbling:

"We thought we had responded effectively to the call of the U.N. Security Council's with our own ASEAN's approach to the problem of our two member states," said Pitsuwan. "The renewed fighting not only disappointed the other ASEAN member states, we have also failed the world in its expectation of all of us."

ASEAN has prided itself on the ability to mediate disputes between members in its own consensual and non-coercive fashion, and the flare-up is a blow to the organization. It's also a setback for Indonesian diplomacy. As the ASEAN chair, Indonesia assumed a key role in negotiations and pledged to send observers to the disputed area. That never came to pass. Per the Christian Science Monitor's account:

As sporadic fighting continues between Thai and Cambodian forces, ASEAN secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan is worried that the regional organization’s mediation effort may be crumbling:

"We thought we had responded effectively to the call of the U.N. Security Council’s with our own ASEAN’s approach to the problem of our two member states," said Pitsuwan. "The renewed fighting not only disappointed the other ASEAN member states, we have also failed the world in its expectation of all of us."

ASEAN has prided itself on the ability to mediate disputes between members in its own consensual and non-coercive fashion, and the flare-up is a blow to the organization. It’s also a setback for Indonesian diplomacy. As the ASEAN chair, Indonesia assumed a key role in negotiations and pledged to send observers to the disputed area. That never came to pass. Per the Christian Science Monitor’s account:

[D]isagreement over the observers’ role, and opposition from Thailand’s powerful military, has delayed the mission. Angered by the delays, Cambodia has accused Thailand of reneging on its commitment to ASEAN’s monitoring mission.

Amid wrangling, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa canceled a planned visit Monday to Bangkok even as ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan called for "a genuine dialogue between the two sides." Thailand’s foreign minister is currently scheduled to fly to Jakarta later this weeks for talks with Mr. Natalegawa.

Cambodia has always preferred UN mediation to the ASEAN route and may press again for the UN to take the lead.

David Bosco is an associate professor at Indiana University's School of Global and International Studies. He is the author of books on the U.N. Security Council and the International Criminal Court, and is at work on a new book about governance of the oceans. Twitter: @multilateralist

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