Cambodia warned to ‘back off’

August 5, 2008 at 9:01 am Leave a comment

Ta Moan Thom temple new border flashpoint

BANGKOK POST AND AGENCIESAugust 05, 2008

Boonsrang: Foreign troops turned back

Supreme Commander Gen Boonsrang Niempradit yesterday told Cambodia to stay away from Ta Moan Thom after the 13th-century temple became the latest hot spot between the two countries. 

The army has informed its Cambodian counterpart of the Thai position, Gen Boonsrang said, adding that if Cambodian soldiers come to the area, they will be pushed back. 

Lt-Gen Niphat Thonglek, chief of the Border Affairs Department, said Cambodian troops would be barred from entering the area, as Thailand and Cambodia have not settled the dispute over land surrounding the Preah Vihear temple. 

A plan to reduce the number of Thai soldiers in the overlapping zone between Kantharalak district in Si Sa Ket and Cambodia’s Preah Vihear province will be tabled during a cabinet meeting today. 

The agreement was reached in the Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) meeting in Siem Reap on July 28 by Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag and his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong. The two countries also agreed to hold more talks to settle the dispute. 

But Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said further talks between their foreign ministers will not take place until Cambodia forms a new government in late September. 

“There will be no more meetings until the new government is formed,” he said in Phnom Penh. 

The Ta Moan Thom temple was thrust into the spotlight on Sunday when Cambodia accused Thai troops of staying in the area it claimed to be part of Cambodian soil.

It is part of a group of the Ta Moan temples in the same area. Two other temples in the group are located on Thai soil, outside the disputed area. 

The Cambodian complaint came after its soldiers were barred from visiting the temple on Saturday. 

Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh said Cambodian soldiers and civilians were usually allowed to enter the Ta Moan Thom ruins for religious ceremonies, but over the weekend Thai soldiers blocked their way. 

“They did not allow our troops to enter. That’s why the dispute arose,” he said. “Now we want the troops to stay where they are for a while.” 

Gen Tea Banh, confirming the Cambodian troops were still stationed nearby, said the two sides were “working on this issue”. 

After the weekend more border rangers from the Suranaree Task Force were mobilised to guard the temple and nearby historical sites. 

A border ranger said there was no tension between Thai and Cambodian troops near the area, and discussions were conducted in a friendly manner. 

Task force commander Maj-Gen Kanok Netrakawesana said Thai soldiers have been stationed around the temple for years. 

The temple is in another location which has not been demarcated. Officials of the two countries had already surveyed the area to gather evidence for the JBC to decide where the borderline should be. 

Cambodian Senior Minister Var Kimhong, who is in charge of border issues, said there was no legal doubt Ta Moan Thom was Cambodian. But Thailand is equally confident it is in Phanom Dong Rak district in Surin, opposite Oddar Meanchey province in Cambodia. 

Fine Arts Department chief Kriengkrai Sampatchalit insisted the department has long taken care of the temple as Thailand’s national heritage, while Cambodia has never shown an interest in maintaining the site. 

The department registered Ta Moan Thom as a national heritage site years ago. Phnom Penh has never opposed the registration, the official added. 

Mr Kriengkrai said demarcation in the area by the Thai-Cambodian panel would settle the dispute. 

Historian Thepmontri Limpapayom said Ta Moan Thom belonged to Thailand, and he believed the new dispute over the temple was a ploy by Phnom Penh to divert Thailand’s attention from the 4.6-square-kilometre disputed area near the Preah Vihear temple. 

Historian M.L. Walwipa Charoonroj of Thammasat University said academics had warned government agencies that the Ta Moan Thom temple could be the subject of a serious dispute.

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Entry filed under: Preah Vihear Issue. Tags: .

Fanning the poisonous airs of nationalism 2nd temple sparks Thai-Cambodian tension

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