Thailand in wrangle with Cambodia over second disputed border temple

August 5, 2008 at 1:41 am Leave a comment

by Shen Min

BANGKOK, Aug. 4 (Xinhua) — With the Preah Vihear temple issue still hanging on, Thailand and Cambodia have now engaged themselves in a new wrangle regarding another ancient temple on the disputed border.

This time it is about Ta Moan Thom temple, a 13th-century Khmer-style temple, or “Prasat” as Thais call, which is situated on Thai-Cambodian border between in Phanom Dong Rak district, Surin province in northeastern Thailand and Cambodia’s Banteay Meanchey province.

Responding to latest reports that Cambodia has accused Thai soldiers of occupying Ta Moan Thom temple, over which Cambodian authorities also claimed ownership, the Royal Thai Army issued a statement on Monday saying that “Thai military deploying at Ta Moan Thom has their duty to look after the border area as usual. They have continuously done this mission for a long time.”

“Thai military has been stationed on Thai site and never encroached into neighboring country. The situation in that area is still normal, military of both countries has closely coordinated to prevent crashes and any misunderstanding,” the statement said.

It also said that the Thai Army will “do anything to protect the sovereignty of the nation” in line with the principle of maintaining good relation between two countries.

Earlier on Monday, Thailand’s Supreme Commander Gen Boonsang Niampradit said that he has handed a letter to Cambodian authorities, stating Thailand’s sovereignty over the land at the Ta Moan Thom temple.

Meanwhile, Thailand’s Fine Arts Department has nominated the Khmer-style Ta Muen Thom temple, situated on disputed Thai-Cambodian border area, to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the department’s director general Kriengkrai Sampatchalit said Monday.

Kriengkrai was quoted by local media as saying that the UNESCO is scheduled to consider the Thai nomination of the Ta Moan Thom as well as other Khmer-style temples in Thailand’s northeastern provinces Surin, Buri Ram and Nakhon Ratchasima under “the Khmer Civilization Route” during its meeting next year.

This move will be naturally viewed as a tit-for-tat pose to Cambodia’s earlier successful bid to list the Preah Vihear temple as the World Heritage Site.

According to Kriengkrail, the Ta Toan Thom is located “just about 100 meters from the border in the Thai soil.” The Fine Arts Department discovered and registered it as one of Thai ancient items in 1935, or about 73 years ago, he said.

The Thai side has since then renovated it and opened it for public long time ago, he said, adding the Cambodian government has acknowledged the renovation and all activities related to the place.

Kriengkrai responded to a recent report that the Cambodian troops tried to cross the border to visit the place, but was declined by the Thai army.

He said Ta Moan Thom has usually welcomed all visitors but the Thai army stepped in to take care of the Khmer visit because they came in uniform and were armed with weapons.

Nationalist sentiment has grown in both countries since Cambodia’s bid to list the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple situated at a disputed border area as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Thailand then withdrew its support, with then Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama sacrificing his job to public emotion and judiciary oppugn, but it did not stop the UNESCO from adding the Preah Vihear to the World Heritage list last month.

Thai and Cambodian military have beefed up military presence along the disputed border since July 15 after three Thais including a monk were briefly detained by Cambodian soldiers for breaking into the temple, which had been closed to the public by Cambodian authorities as border tension rose.

On Monday, the Supreme Commander Boonsang also said the Thai army will provide relevant information for the Foreign Ministry for consideration before negotiating with its Cambodian counterpart over the Preah Vihear temple issue.

Thai newly appointed Foreign Minister Dej Bunnag is expected to hold a second round meeting with his Cambodian counterpart in SiemReap, Cambodia in an attempt to ease military and diplomatic stand-off between the two countries resulting from the Preah Vihear dispute.

The July 28 talks between the two sides produced no breakthrough but a joint statement in which the two countries agree no “adjusting military deployment” along the disputed border and act with restraint.

However, one week after the meeting, the two sides have shown no sign of reducing troops stationed there.

Boonsang said the withdrawal of troops has to be carefully discussed as the issue is sensitive, complicated and could affect the two nations’ sovereignty.

Editor: Sun Yunlong

Entry filed under: Preah Vihear Issue. Tags: .

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