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Church workers doubt border peace plan

Ceasefire terms will not stop deadly clashes as issue mired in political maneuvering, aid groups say

Church workers doubt border peace plan
Cambodian villagers displaced by border fighting (Photos courtesy of Caritas Cambodia)
Panithan Kitsakul, Bangkok

February 21, 2011

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Though military authorities of Thailand and Cambodia have signed an 8-point agreement to stop the deadly border clashes, Church workers say they are not optimistic it will solve the problem. “We won’t be able to access all background and rationale of this situation as it is a political issue of two countries. We won’t be able to rely on the present situation even though they have agreed to a ceasefire as we have recent experience of how fragile a ceasefire might be. “They agreed to cease firing but after few hours they started to fight again,” remarked Bishop Banchong Chaiyara of Ubon Ratchathani, whose diocese covers the site of border clashes that killed at least eight, injured dozens more and displaced hundreds on both sides of the border. Thai military authorities on 19 February negotiated with deputy army commander Hun Manet, son of Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen, and agreed on eight points including: not to engage in armed clashes, no mobilisation of troops, no troops or heavy weapon reinforcements to the frontline, no confrontation and no construction in disputed areas. However, media reports yesterday said Thailand's prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has denied a ceasefire agreement has been signed, pending an ASEAN-level meeting tomorrow. “What we can do now is pray together to bring peace into our society,” Bishop Banchong said, noting religious leaders of both countries are concerned. At the same time, “we are ready in preparation to respond any conflict situation which may occur. We have prepared our lay persons whom live in the area out of fire to ready to support those fleeing from the clash.” “We urge leaders of both countries to negotiate and reach agreement by peaceful means.” Church workers and others note that the recent agreement is only between the military of both countries. Despite the ceasefire, people do not trust the situation and are still frightened, said Boonnithi Namboon, of the Ubon Ratchathani Diocese Social Action Center. “At present, we are in the process of fund raising among the Catholic community.”
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