UN to take up Thai-Cambodian border dispute

July 24, 2008 at 4:22 am Leave a comment

June 24, 2008

AP – By JOHN HEILPRIN

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – With some 4,000 troops massed along the Thai-Cambodian border, United Nations Security Council members say they will try to keep a standoff from escalating into war.

Diplomats said Wednesday they expect to call a special council session, probably next week, to deal with the latest dispute over land near the ancient temple of Preah Vihear. Cambodia has appealed to the U.N. Security Council to intervene, warning that the two sides were at “an imminent state of war.”

The conflict is over an area less than two square miles around the temple that both nations claim as their own. The International Court of Justice awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, but its listing this month as a U.N. World Heritage Site has stirred tensions anew.

French U.N. Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert said the 15-nation council “should meet as fast as possible” based on Cambodia’s request.

“We are in charge of peace and security,” he said. “So, if we can diffuse the tensions and if we can prevent any development that could be dramatic for the region and for peace and security, we will do it and we think we have to do it.”

Thailand sent troops to the border on July 15 after anti-government demonstrators attacked Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej’s government for supporting Cambodia’s application to UNESCO, the U.N. agency that designates World Heritage Sites. There are now 878 sites on the global list, which helps draw attention to efforts to conserve them.

They say the temple’s new status will undermine Thailand’s claim to the land. Cambodia responded with its own deployment. The carved stone temple and buildings from the first half of the 11th century A.D. were built by cliffs overlooking mountains.

As the dispute entered its second week, Thailand accused Cambodia of eyeing even more of its land and leaflets appeared in the Cambodian capital calling for a boycott of Thai goods. Cambodian police were investigating the leaflets.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said he had no choice but to appeal to the United Nations after discussions with Thailand on Monday failed to produce a breakthrough. He made a similar request to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, but the region’s key bloc urged the two countries to continue bilateral negotiations.

Thailand’s U.N. Ambassador Don Pramudwinai said Wednesday that Cambodia was bringing the quarrel before the Security Council because “the Cambodian target is not only Preah Vihear but the entire common border.” Don told Bangkok’s Business Radio that Cambodia was trying to force Thailand to accept a French colonial map that favors Cambodia.

Thailand relies on a different map drawn up later with American technical assistance.

Pramudwinai also told the Security Council in a letter Monday that “the boundary line claimed by Cambodia has no legal status” from the 1962 ruling, because he said that case dealt only with “sovereignty” – the question of who owns the temple.

Cambodia’s U.N. Ambassador Sea Kosal wrote the council last Friday that “this Thai military provocation is aimed at creating a de facto ‘overlapping area’ that legally does not exist on Cambodia soil.”

The two nations have built up about 4,000 troops in the area, with both sides insisting they won’t resort to force. The atmosphere remained calm Wednesday among Cambodian and Thai troops at the hilltop temple, despite the intense diplomatic rhetoric by the respective governments.

Troops from both sides “continued interacting cordially,” said Cambodian Brig. Gen. Chea Keo, without elaborating.

Associated Press writers Ker Munthit and Sopheng Cheang in Cambodia, Ambika Ahuja and Sutin Wannabovorn in Bangkok, Thailand, and Sumeth Panpetch along the Thai-Cambodian border contributed to this report.

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Entry filed under: Preah Vihear Issue. Tags: .

More on Preah Vihear from CTN Interview with H.E. Var Kimhong

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