Saturday, 19 July 2008

Media invited to Preah Vihear to see Cambodian-Thai military standoff
2008-07-19 00:27:10

PREAH VIHEAR, July 18 (Xinhua) -- Under the arrangement of the Cambodian government, representatives from foreign and domestic news media came here Friday to watch the real situation of the four-day-long Cambodian-Thai military standoff over a land dispute.

"We want the foreign media agencies and local media organizations to see what is on earth happening here," Phan Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers of Cambodia, told the reporters in front of the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara Pagoda (namely the Preah Vihear Pagoda), 200 meters away from near the Preah Vihear Temple.

Each side deployed some 50 soldiers inside the pagoda. The overall Thai and Cambodian troops within the area were estimated at around 500 for each side.

The Cambodian authority refused to give the exact number, fearing that it may lead to new buildup.

News agencies reported Friday that both troops came close to shoot-out and the situation was very tense.

However, at the scene, Thai and Cambodian troops were seen sitting in small groups next to each other in the forestry and along the street near the Preah Vihear Temple. They were equipped with long rifles and bombs.

Some were chatting with and smiling to each other and it looked like there was no military tension at all.

When asked why they did not attack each other, they said they were waiting for order from their bosses.

"Our bosses are on the way to discuss next Monday and now we can't do anything," they added.

Siphan said that "I hope that the top-level meeting next Monday between the senior officials from Cambodian and Thai governments will help avoid war between the two countries."

The meeting will be held Monday in Thai province of Sa Keaw near the border. Thai Supreme Commander of Royal Thai Armed Forces Boonsrang Niumpraditt will lead the Thai delegation, while Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense Tea Banh will lead the Cambodian team.

On Friday's mission, 20 reporters were transported from Phnom Penh by a military helicopter to the Preah Vihear Temple.

During the press tour, some soldiers from both sides were also seen putting their fingers on gun triggers, looking serious, and not passing through the other side's blocks.

Siphan said that the two countries are neighbors and used to have good, traditional and friendly relations.

"Both sides don't want to see blood at war battle, because we are brothers and sisters," he said.

"We want to see the situation like before July 15 and the Thai troops have to move back to their stations," he added.

Thai military colonel Chayan Huay Soong Nern told reporter through interpreter inside the pagoda that "we are concerned that more Thai protesters will appear around the Perah Vihear Temple. Therefore, we deploy troops here."

Earlier Tuesday, three Thai protesters were arrested for jumping an immigration checkpoint to reach the Preah Vihear Temple. Thai troops then came to fetch them, thus triggering face off with Cambodian military there.

The protesters trespassed the border with intention to reclaim the 11-century classic Khmer-style temple, which the International Court of Justice awarded, together with the land it occupies, to Cambodia in 1962. The decision has rankled the Thais ever since.

The temple straddles the Thai-Cambodian border atop the Dangrek Mountain and was listed as a World Heritage Site on July 7 by the UNESCO's World Heritage Committee

Editor: Yan Liang

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