Cambodia reasserts claim over border temples

August 13, 2008 at 3:51 am Leave a comment

The Associated Press – August 12, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodia reasserted its claim Tuesday over ancient border temples that also are claimed by Thailand ahead of talks next week on lingering territorial disputes.

The foreign ministers of the two countries are to meet Monday in Thailand to try to defuse military standoffs along their shared border – first near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple and then at the 13th century Ta Moan Thom temple.

Ta Moan Thom is several hundred miles (kilometers) west of Preah Vihear, where Cambodian and Thai soldiers have been facing off for four weeks in a dispute over 1.8 square miles (4.6 square kilometers) of nearby land.

The Cambodian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday that Ta Moan Thom “is clearly situated in the Cambodian territory.”

It said a nearby temple, Ta Moan Toch, which has been occupied by Thai troops also belongs to Cambodia.

Thailand has also laid claims to both temples.

Late last month, Cambodian officials said Thai soldiers had occupied the site and prevented Cambodian troops from entering. Thai military officials countered that their troops had been in the area for years.

Last week, the standoff there appeared to have eased, with both sides pulling back their soldiers.

But Thai troops have reoccupied the area since then, Maj. Ho Bunthy, a Cambodian army commander in the area, said Tuesday.

He said about 50 Cambodian soldiers have now positioned themselves in close proximity to about 120 Thai troops who are stationed on the temple grounds and in a camp nearby.

“The Thai troops are guarding a gate to the temple, and Cambodian soldiers are standing just outside the gate,” he said in a telephone interview.

The two countries share about 500 miles (800 kilometers) of land border, which has not been fully demarcated.

The dispute surrounding the Preah Vihear temple escalated last month after UNESCO approved Cambodia’s application to have it named a World Heritage Site. Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej had backed the bid, sparking demonstrations by anti-government protesters who claimed the temple’s new status would undermine Thailand’s claim to the surrounding area.

The dispute has continued despite two rounds of talks since last month, with the countries referring to two different maps.

Cambodia uses a French colonial map demarcating the border, which Thailand says favors Cambodia. Thailand relies on a map drawn up later with American technical assistance.

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Entry filed under: Preah Vihear Issue. Tags: , , , .

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