Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Thailand rejects Cambodian claims of damage to Preah Vihear

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation
Published on October 28, 2008

Thailand yesterday dismissed Cambodian claims of damage to the World Heritage site of Preah Vihear Temple during the recent shoot-out, saying it was the other side that had dispatched troops with heavy weaponry at the temple and its vicinity.

"We're verifying the presence of Cambodian troops at the temple, because we understand that placing troops at a World Heritage site violates the World Heritage Convention," said Foreign Ministry permanent secretary Virasakdi Futrakul.

A military report indicated Cambodian troops had fired rockets from the temple onto the Thai side, he added.

Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan said on Sunday that his government has lodged a complaint with the United Nations accusing Thai troops of damaging the ancient Preah Vihear Temple.

The complaint was filed with Unesco, the UN's cultural body, a few days after the firefight broke out on October 15 near Preah Vihear, he said.

A staircase and a sculpture of the mythical Naga creature were hit by rocket fire at the 11th-century Khmer ruins, he said.

However, Thai ambassador to Paris Thana Duangrat reported to the ministry that there was no record of a Cambodian complaint submitted to Unesco.

"We have evidence proving Cambodia fired the rockets from Preah Vihear Temple at Thai troops," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat.

The ministry has checked the facts with the Second Army Area, which confirmed that on October 15, Thai soldiers, fired upon by Cambodian troops in the vicinity of Pha Mor I Daeng, used only rifles in their defence, he said.

In accordance with strict orders, Thai troops have not used heavy firearms or rocket launchers near Wat Phra Viharn, as it is called in Thai, and never fired at the temple.

On the contrary, Cambodian soldiers opened fired on Thai soldiers positioned near the twin stupas in the vicinity of Pha Mor I Daeng with recoilless guns and rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), Tharit said.

The rockets landed near the twin stupas, wounding two Thai soldiers. Some also landed in Preah Vihear National Park in the vicinity of Laan Chom Dao and the park's residences. The Thai side later found two RPGs fired by the Cambodian side that had landed but failed to explode and has kept both of them for evidence, he said.

Cambodia's latest move could make the border problem more complicated and difficult to resolve, he said.

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