Friday, 1 August 2008

Thai-Cambodian border standoff continues as talks make no progress
Thursday, 31 July 2008

SIEM REAP, Cambodia - Cambodia and Thailand struggled Monday to settle a standoff over disputed border territory near an ancient Hindu temple that prompted both countries to deploy thousands of troops to the area.

Foreign ministers from the two Southeast Asian countries expressed optimism that their talks would produce a breakthrough in the dispute.

But midway through the talks Monday in Siem Reap, the mood was tense and progress remained elusive, officials said.

"We have discussed many points but we have not reached a solution yet," Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters.

A first round of talks July 21 foundered over what maps should be used to demarcate the border. It prompted Cambodia to request a meeting of the United Nations Security Council before agreeing to the second round of talks with Thailand.

The dispute over 4.6 square kilometres of land near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple escalated earlier this month when UNESCO approved Cambodia's application to have the complex named a World Heritage Site.

Thailand sent troops to the border July 15 after anti-government demonstrators criticized Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's government for supporting Cambodia's application to UNESCO. Cambodia responded with its own deployment.

Hor Namhong said Friday he was hopeful the new talks would end the impasse, but also warned his government would pursue the case at the UN if negotiations failed again.

A French map demarcating the border generally favours Cambodia, and Thailand rejects it, saying it was drawn up by a colonial power to its own advantage.

Thailand relies on a map drawn up later with American technical assistance, but accepts a ruling by the International Court of Justice that awarded the disputed temple to Cambodia in 1962.

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