Thai-Cambodia standoff persists

August 1, 2008 at 7:31 am Leave a comment

Al Jazeera – Friday, August 01, 2008
08:46 Mecca time, 05:46 GMT

Hundreds of Thai and Cambodian soldiers continue to be deployed around the temple [Reuters]

 The standoff around the disputed Preah Vihear temple on the border between Thailand and Cambodia has shown no signs of easing.

Thong Khon, the Cambodian tourism minister, said the 1,000 or so people had gathered “to pray to the souls of our ancestors asking for peace”, referring to Khmer kings who built the temple from the 9th to 11th centuries.

“We also pray for success in our defence of our territory,” he added.

Tej Bunnag, the Thai foreign minister, said on Thursday that his government did not have to move its troops because Cambodia had not shown any sign that it would withdraw its troops from the disputed area.

Since Cambodia had “not informed Thailand officially” when it would pull out its troops, it was not necessary for the Thai government to react, Tej said.

Cambodia and Thailand had agreed this week to pull back hundreds of troops from the disputed area to end the weeks-long standoff.

The agreement had come after 12 hours of talks between the foreign ministers from both countries, meeting in the northern Cambodian city of Siem Reap.

The move was to see the withdrawal of some 800 Cambodian and 400 Thai soldiers from the vicinity of Preah Vihear.

Disputed ownership

Cambodia and Thailand claim ownership to the territory surrounding the Khmer-era temple and the deployment of troops in the region had raised worries of a military confrontation.

Both sides had pledged to resolve the dispute “bilaterally and peacefully”.

Hor Namhong, the Cambodian foreign minister, said they had “agreed to ask our governments to redeploy the troops” with details to be discussed later.

But neither side had set any firm deadline for the troop withdrawal from area around the temple, or a date for the next meeting.

During Monday’s talks the two countries also proposed a series of steps to end the conflict including a scheme to remove landmines that litter the area so that the border can be properly demarcated.

Cambodian and Thai officials said the meeting was the first step in what is likely to be protracted negotiations to end a dispute that has simmered for decades.

A first round of talks in Bangkok failed last week after Thai and Cambodian defence ministers could not agree on which maps to use to demarcate the border.

Cambodia had sought help from the United Nations but suspended its request pending the outcome of talks with Thailand.

The current conflict focuses on an area about 5 sq km of scrubland surrounding the 11th century temple which was recently awarded World Heritage listing by Unesco, the UN cultural organisation. 

Monks and government officials prayed at the ancient temple on Friday in the shadow of armed troops from both sides as the soldiers continued their standoff from just a few metres apart. 

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Entry filed under: Preah Vihear Issue. Tags: .

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