Thai premier visits controversial border temple on eve of talks

August 18, 2008 at 6:57 am Leave a comment

Aug 18, 2008

Bangkok – Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej on Monday visited the Phreah Vihear complex on the eve of bilateral talks with Cambodia over the disputed border temple that sparked a military standoff between the two neighbouring countries last month.

‘Cambodia is our ASEAN neighbour that we must live together with, not be enemies with,’ Samak said while visiting the temple about 400 kilometres north-east of Bangkok.

Both Thailand and Cambodia are members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), which also includes Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.

Over the weekend, both Thailand and Cambodia withdrew hundreds of troops from around Phreah Vihear, leaving 10 soldiers posted in the contested zone each.

Samak’s visit and the troop withdrawal came on the eve of talks on the disputed 11th-century temple site between Thai Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag and his Cambodian counterpart, Hor Nam Hong, at the Thai beach resort of Hua Hin, 150 kilometres south-east of Bangkok.

The two foreign ministers last met July 28 to try to defuse the temple spat, which was then in danger of turning into a military conflict.

Separate claims on the area surrounding Preah Vihear turned into a military standoff between Thailand and Cambodia last month after UNESCO agreed to name the Hindu sanctuary a World Heritage Site.

Although Thailand has long accepted a 1962 ruling of the International Court of Justice that granted Cambodia sovereignty over the temple, which sits on a 525-metre cliff that defines the two countries’ common border, it has disputed Cambodia’s claim to the area surrounding the temple complex.

Many Thai historians and academics refute The Hague court’s ruling, claiming it was based on a faulty 1907 border map drawn up by the French, who were the colonial masters of Cambodia at the time.

The court ruled that since Thailand had not officially objected to the border demarcation placing the temple in Cambodia, it had forfeited the temple, but the court stopped short of ruling on the legitimacy of the French-drawn map’s borderline in Preah Vihear’s vicinity.

Thailand claims a 4.6-square-kilometre plot of land adjoining the temple is still disputed.

In fact, the 798-kilometre-long Thai-Cambodia border still has many disputed areas, with Preah Vihear being just the most controversial to date.

‘We think this issue is complex, and it will take a long time to solve,’ Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said.

The Preah Vihear dispute has stoked nationalistic sentiments on both sides on the border.

About 200 police were deployed in Hua Hin to assure the safety of Hor Nam Hong, media reports said.



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

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