Tuesday, 22 July 2008

#10 - News : Preah Vihear - 22.07.2008

No progress in Cambodia-Thailand standoff …Pictures from Preah Vihear 22/07/08

Diplomatic efforts have failed to end a week-long military standoff between Cambodia and Thailand over a border dispute which is raising tensions in the region, officials said Tuesday.(AFP/Graphic)

A Cambodian soldier walks past Preah Vihear temple, near the Thai border in the Cambodian province of Preah Vihear, July 21. ASEAN held crisis talks with member states Thailand and Cambodia but failed to defuse a military standoff which is threatening to escalate into an unprecedented test for the regional bloc.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Cambodian paramilitary personnel stand guard at the Preah Vihear temple near the Thai border on July 21. ASEAN held crisis talks with member states Thailand and Cambodia on Tuesday over an armed border standoff which is threatening to escalate into an unprecedented test for the regional bloc.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Cambodian Buddhist monks walk at the Preah Vihear temple near the Thai border in Cambodia. Cambodia called Tuesday for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to resolve a military standoff with neighbouring Thailand over a temple.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

A Cambodian soldier stands guard at Preah Vihear temple near the Thai border in the Cambodian province of Preah Vihear. Diplomatic efforts have failed to end a week-long military standoff between Cambodia and Thailand over a border dispute which is raising tensions in the region, officials said Tuesday.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Thai soldiers gather along a road leading to a pagoda close to Preah Vihear temple on July 19. ASEAN held crisis talks with member states Thailand and Cambodia but failed to defuse a military standoff which is threatening to escalate into an unprecedented test for the regional bloc.(AFP/File/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Sacravatoons : " Your Secret Ballot "

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Sacravatoons : " Xmer Sovereignty "

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No progress in Cambodia-Thailand standoff

Cambodian Buddhist monks walk at the Preah Vihear temple near the Thai border in Cambodia. Diplomatic efforts have failed to end a week-long military standoff between Cambodia and Thailand over a border dispute which is raising tensions in the region, officials said Tuesday.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

by Suy Se

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (AFP) - Diplomatic efforts have failed to end a week-long military standoff between Cambodia and Thailand over a border dispute which is raising tensions in the region, officials said Tuesday.

With more than 500 Thai troops facing off against at least 1,000 Cambodian soldiers over a tiny area of land near an ancient temple, the two sides cannot even agree on whether to seek a mediator or UN help to end the crisis.

Crisis talks among Southeast Asian foreign ministers in Singapore failed to make any headway, diplomats there said, one day after senior Cambodian and Thai defence officials ended eight hours of negotiations with no resolution.

The troops are deployed around a small Buddhist pagoda in about five square kilometres (two square miles) of disputed territory near an ancient Hindu temple that belongs to Cambodia but has sparked decades of tensions.

Cambodia's foreign ministry said Tuesday that "in order to avoid armed confrontation," the country would ask for "an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council to find a solution to the problem."

"We need a third party to solve this problem," Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith told AFP.

Thailand however does not want foreign mediators involved in the dispute, said the head of the armed forces, General Boonsrang Niumpradit.

"The dispute should be discussed between the two countries," said Boonsrang, who led the talks with Cambodia on Monday. "Better that than elevating it to ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) or the UN."

However, foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations held an unscheduled lunch meeting on the dispute during their annual talks in Singapore.

"Cambodia wants it resolved through ASEAN but the Thai side wants it resolved bilaterally," one diplomat told AFP.

When asked if any progress had been made towards a resolution he replied: "Nothing".

Despite Thai objections to regional involvement, the US ambassador to Cambodia, Joseph Mussomeli, told reporters that ASEAN should play a role in ending the dispute.

"We have suggested that the troops should not stay close to each other. I'm not aware of what the solution will be, but it should be done in the ASEAN context," Mussomeli said.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that the 11th century Preah Vihear temple belongs to Cambodia. But the easiest entrance lies in Thailand, and a section of the surrounding land remains in dispute.

The UN cultural body UNESCO earlier this month granted World Heritage status to the temple perched on a jungle mountaintop, sparking an outcry from nationalist groups in Thailand.

Cambodia maintains that Thai troops are trespassing on its territory, and has sent a letter to the United Nations to draw attention to what it says is an illegal incursion. Thailand insists the land around the temple is theirs.

The situation boiled over after three Thai protesters were arrested last week for jumping a fence to reach the temple, prompting armed troops to head to the border.

Cambodian military officials said Tuesday they were not surprised that talks had failed to find a resolution.

"We expected this result weeks ago. We will try to be more patient," said Brigadier Chea Keo, commander of Cambodian forces in the area.

Both governments have ordered troops not to fire their weapons and pledged to find a peaceful solution. UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Monday expressed concern about escalating tension, calling for "restraint on both sides.

Thai-Cambodia dispute moves to ASEAN

Cambodian Buddhist monks walk at Preah Vihear temple on Monday.

(CNN) -- Cambodia and Thailand failed to resolve a weeklong military standoff over an ancient border temple that sits on disputed land.

An eight-hour meeting on Monday ended with both sides agreeing on only one point: that troops that each country has amassed at the site of the Preah Vihear temple will not fire on each other, the Thai News Agency reported.

Officials will reconvene after Cambodia's general election on July 27. For now, the countries are seeking regional intervention from their Southeast Asian neighbors.

Foreign ministers of the 10 countries that comprise the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are meeting in Singapore this week.

Cambodia has also sent a letter to the United Nations Security Council to call attention to the standoff.

At the heart of the dispute is an 11th century temple to which Cambodia and Thailand lay claim. It sits atop a cliff on Cambodian soil but has its most accessible entrance on the Thai side.

The International Court of Justice awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962. Thailand claims, however, that the 1.8 square mile (4.6 square km) area around it was never fully demarcated.

Thailand further says that the dispute arose from the fact that the Cambodian government used a map drawn during the French occupation of Cambodia -- a map that places the temple and surrounding area in Cambodian territory.

This month, the United Nations approved Cambodia's application to have the temple listed as a World Heritage Site -- a designation U.N. gives to places it deems of outstanding universal value.

The decision re-ignited tensions, with some in Thailand fearing it will make it difficult for their country to lay claim to disputed land around the temple.

Opposition parties in Thailand used the issue to attack the government, which initially backed the heritage listing.

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has been in power since the mid-1980s, has portrayed the U.N. recognition as a national triumph in the run-up to the general elections.

The current flare-up began July 15, when Cambodian guards briefly detained three Thais who crossed into the area. Once they were let go, the three refused to leave the territory.

Cambodia claims Thailand sent troops to retrieve the trio and gradually built up their numbers. Thailand denies that, saying its troops are deployed in Thai territory.

ASEAN ministers confront Thai-Cambodia crisis

ASEAN foreign ministers and senior officials attend a meeting in Singapore on July 21. ASEAN held crisis talks with member states Thailand and Cambodia but failed to defuse a military standoff which is threatening to escalate into an unprecedented test for the regional bloc.(AFP/Pool/Dita Alangkara)

by Stephen Coates

SINGAPORE, (AFP) - ASEAN held crisis talks with member states Thailand and Cambodia on Tuesday but failed to defuse a military standoff which is threatening to escalate into an unprecedented test for the regional bloc.

The unscheduled talks took place behind closed doors during annual ministerial meetings here as Cambodia called for an emergency session of the UN Security Council to defuse the crisis which flared last week.

"Both ministers from Thailand and Cambodia basically gave briefings on the issue," an Asian diplomat told AFP, requesting anonymity.

"Cambodia wants it resolved through ASEAN but the Thai side wants it resolved bilaterally," he added.

When asked if any progress had been made towards a resolution, he replied: "Nothing".

More than 500 Thai troops are facing off against at least 1,000 Cambodian soldiers around a small Buddhist pagoda on disputed land near the ruins of an 11th-century temple , which belongs to Cambodia.

No shots have been fired since the long-running dispute erupted into a military standoff last week, but some senior ASEAN officials said they were concerned it was escalating.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Rais Yatim said the dispute was "not only relevant in terms of the problems that we see between the two states but also could be a test for ASEAN."

"For the first time now two of its members are facing what we call a border predicament."

ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said after the meeting the atmosphere had been "friendly" but he gave no indication progress had been made.

"ASEAN still insisted on the statement that the chairman put out Sunday evening that expects the two sides to find amicable solutions to the issues between them," he said.

Before the talks he said ASEAN ministers were divided between those who thought the situation was under control and "another interpretation is that it is escalating."

Bilateral talks Monday failed to resolve the dispute and Cambodia sent a letter to the United Nations on Tuesday demanding an emergency meeting of the Security Council to avoid an "armed confrontation."

A Thai military official conceded in Bangkok that the two sides were at a stalemate, and confirmed that Thailand was resisting any foreign mediation.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that the Preah Vihear temple belonged to Cambodia but the most accessible entrance lies in Thailand and the surrounding land remains in dispute, stirring nationalist sentiment in both countries.

Tensions flared last week when three Thais tried to enter the temple, leading both nations to send troops to the border.

Rais said the two sides should "exercise utmost restraint" in the "spirit of ASEAN," which is founded on consensus-building and dialogue between countries with varying levels of development and political systems.

The crisis talks came two days before a meeting here this week of Asia's main security forum, featuring ASEAN plus 17 partners including the United States and China.

Those discussions are expected to be dominated by efforts to disarm North Korea, with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice due to meet North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun at informal talks for the first time.

The Wednesday meeting will take place as part of informal consultations with their counterparts from South Korea, China, Japan and Russia, representing the six parties trying to dismantle North Korea's nuclear programme.

Rice has played down the significance of her meeting with Pak, and the White House said Monday that North Korea remained in what US President George W. Bush dubbed an "axis of evil" along with Iran.

DPM Somchai concerned over Thai-Cambodian border dispute

Thaindain News
July 22nd, 2008
by amrit

Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Somchai Wongsawat (สมชาย วงศ์สวัสดิ์) says he is concerned over problems at the Thai-Cambodia border as territory is a sensitive issue.

Mr Somchai reports that Deputy Prime Minister Sahat Banditkul (สหัส บัณฑิตกุล) is the head of Thai representatives assigned by the government to attend the ASEAN Foreign Affairs Ministers’ Meeting in Singapore. The group is expected to report the meeting’s results to the premier during the Cabinet meeting today (July, 22nd).

Mr Somchai says further that the premier has formed a team to negotiate with Cambodia and the border conflict may prompt the government to reshuffle the Cabinet. However, he says the Cabinet reshuffle depends on the premier.

The deputy premier says the People Power party’s meeting which has been postponed will not discuss ministerial quotas. As for the government’s decision to replace the government’s spokesman team with PTV founders, Mr Somchai says the government has the right to explain issues and will play fair to all sides.

Source : National News Bureau, Public Relations Department of Thailand

‘Gone fishing’ in Cambodia

Vietnamese immigrants make up the majority of the 7,000 who live in Tonle Sap Lake floating village. Most make a living fishing or selling food and clothing on boats.

Thanhnien
July 22, 2008

A community of Vietnamese immigrants in Cambodia eke it out on boats on the Southeast Asia’s largest fresh water lake.

Tran Van Thanh removes fish from a net on a small boat in Tonle Sap, also known as the Great Lake, in Cambodia.

He says he followed his father there from the southern province of An Giang in Vietnam when he was 10.

Now almost 70 years old, he says he misses his hometown.

“Other people leave their home country and come back rich, but as for me, I don’t have the money to return just once to worship my ancestors,” Thanh said.

“I don’t even know whether my children can afford to bury me when I die, maybe my body will be left to rot and feed the fish in the lake,” the old man said.

Thanh is one of 7,000 living at a floating village on Tonle Sap in Pursat Province, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia.

There were about a thousand houses built from bamboo and most of the residents were Vietnamese, president of the Pursat Province’s Overseas Vietnamese Association, Huynh Luy, said.

Luy said 95 percent of the population made their living fishing while the rest ran small food or clothing businesses on boats.

Although Tonle Sap is one of the most productive fisheries in the world, it is not easy for poor people toearn money there.

Resident, Ly Minh Doi, said lives of fishermen like him rose and fell like the tides on Tonle Sap.

In the last few months, many families had sold their houses and moved in search for work, only to return in the rainy season which is good for fishing, he said.

“That is our fate and we can’t change it no matter how hard we try,” said Doi.

Nguyen Thi An, who has spent almost all of her life on the lake, said her family had returned home to An Giang Province only once.

They decided, however, to return to Tonle Sap because fishing was the only job they could do, she said.

Now an old woman, An couldn’t remember how many grandchildren she had, although she was certain that they were living somewhere on the lake.

She said she never blamed her children for leaving her alone because they were all too poor to take care of her.

Many fishermen can’t afford their own boat so they work for other fisherman.

Ghet, for instance, works for the owner of a trawler and his main job is to dive into the lake to check the nets.

The water is cold and he said he knew of two divers who had drowned, but he only earns about 10,000 riels (US$2.4) a night to buy food for his family.

He doesn’t have a stable income because his boss doesn’t always need him.

He would rather work for himself but fishing permits cost 1 million riels ($240), which is beyond his reach.

At sunrise fishermen start sailing their small boats back to the floating village, with dark circles under their eyes after a night on the lake.

Le Minh Trung, a young man who comes from the southern Tay Ninh Province, said, “The lake was calm last night and I was able to catch more than 20 kilograms of tiny shrimps.”

He would go to the local market and sell those shrimps for 12,000 riels ($2.90), enough to feed his family for two days, he said.

Many times when the family had nothing to eat, Trung has wanted to take his wife and small child and move somewhere else.

But with no money, he said he didn’t know where they could go.

So it is that thousands of Vietnamese fishermen like Trung live day to day at the floating village in Cambodia.

Cambodia seeks U.N. help in Thai temple row

Thai Supreme Commander General Boonsrang Niumpradit (R) sit with Cambodian Defence Minister General Tea Banh during a news conference at the Thai border town of Aranyaprathet, 250 km (155 miles) east of Bangkok, July 21 2008. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang


Tue Jul 22, 2008

By Melanie Lee

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Cambodia has asked the United Nations Security Council for an emergency meeting to resolve a military stand-off with Thailand over an ancient temple on their border.

Phnom Penh's appeal to the world body late on Monday came after bilateral talks failed to end the week-long border confrontation, which neighbours fear could turn violent.

"In order to avoid armed confrontation, the Royal Government of Cambodia has decided to request an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council to find a solution to the problem in accordance with international laws," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

At the heart of the dispute is a 4.6 sq km (1.8 sq mile) area around the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, which sits on a jungle-clad escarpment that forms a natural boundary and is claimed by both nations. The 900-year-old temple was awarded to Cambodia by an international court in 1962.

Ministers representing Thailand and Cambodia briefed foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations about the situation at a working lunch, after Cambodia asked ASEAN to get involved.

Thailand does not want to internationalise the dispute, and prefers to settle it bilaterally, ASEAN diplomats said afterward.

"The lunch was very, very unofficial, very informal, talking about many, many issues," said ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan.

"Just expressing some views on issues that would affect the region, that would affect ASEAN, that would have some implications on the image and credibility of ASEAN. Many, many issues were discussed."

Surin said that ASEAN expected the "two sides to find the amicable solutions to the issues between them and that ASEAN still stands ready to extend any support if the two sides would like ASEAN to play a role. But we did not go any further than that."

DISPUTED AREA

The military build-up began a week ago, when Thai troops moved into the disputed area after three Thai protesters were briefly detained there. Since then, both sides have sent hundreds more soldiers and heavy artillery to the border.

Preah Vihear's listing as a World Heritage site in Cambodia this month triggered a political uproar in Bangkok, where the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) accused the government of selling out Thailand's history by initially backing the listing.

The stand-off has become a key issue in the run-up to Cambodia's general election on Sunday, with ruling party and opposition politicians slamming the "Thai invaders".

But domestic politics in Thailand have played an even bigger role in fuelling the dispute.
A coalition of activists and royalists is waging a street campaign against Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, whom they accuse of acting as a proxy for former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a coup in 2006.

Cambodia had asked ASEAN to form an Inter-Ministerial Group of foreign ministers from Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and Laos to "find a peaceful solution to the current crisis and to avoid a military confrontation between two ASEAN members".

Monday's talks on the Thai-Cambodia border partly bogged down over which maps should be used to settle ownership of the temple and surrounding area, officials said.

(Additional reporting by Ek Madra in Phnom Penh, and Manny Mogato in Singapore; Writing by Bill Tarrant; Editing by Alex Richardson)

No foreign mediator needed in Cambodia talks: Thailand

The Economic Times
22 Jul, 2008

BANGKOK: Thailand does not want foreign mediators involved in its border dispute with Cambodia, a Thai military official said Tuesday, but conceded that the two sides were at a stalemate.

General Boonsrang Niumpradit, Thailand's chief negotiator in the dispute, on Monday ended negotiations with Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh without any resolution to their military standoff.

Neither country was willing to relinquish their claim to a disputed patch of land near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple.

"The problem was that we and Cambodia are using two different maps. Cambodian is using the French version while we used a US-drawn map, thus it's hard for us to reach agreement," he said on Thai television.

More than 500 Thai and 1,000 Cambodian troops are stationed around a small Buddhist pagoda in about five square kilometres (two square miles) of disputed land on a mountain slope leading to Preah Vihear, which the World Court said in 1962 belongs to Cambodia.

Cambodia on Tuesday suggested again taking their dispute to the World Court in The Hague and proposed a UN Security Council meeting on the crisis, but Boonsrang said the Thai side was not keen on international involvement.

"The dispute should be discussed between the two countries," he said. "Better that than elevating it to ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) or the UN."

Boonsrang said, however, that tensions between the two countries may ease after elections in Cambodia on July 27. "It will be easier to talk after the elections," he said.

Recent tensions between the neighbours began with Cambodia's moves to have Preah Vihear listed as a UN World Heritage Site, and boiled over last Tuesday when three Thais tried to illegally enter the temple.

The United Nations earlier this month granted the temple World Heritage status, which Cambodian Premier Hun Sen has portrayed as a national triumph, organising huge public celebrations ahead of Sunday's polls.

Help sought to end standoff over temple

Denver Post Wire Report
07/22/2008

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia — Cambodia is seeking regional intervention in its territorial dispute with Thailand after talks between the two neighbors failed to end a military standoff around an ancient temple, officials said today.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong asked Singapore to form a regional "inter-ministerial group ... to help find a peaceful solution."

Foreign ministers in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are holding their annual meeting in Singapore.

Several thousand Thai and Cambodian troops are to remain along their countries' shared border after Monday's talks failed to resolve an eight-day dispute over land near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple.

Wipark Haeng Wipark column in Matichon newspaper :

The Bangkok Post
Tuesday July 22, 2008

The current Thai-Cambodian conflict over the Preah Vihear temple is highly sensitive, and everyone must try to prevent it from escalating into an armed conflict.

The last time Thai armed forces were engaged in a border conflict was in 1989, when Thailand and Laos fought a short but bloody war over the village of Ban Romklao. At that time, the army commander-in-chief, who doubled as the supreme commander, exerted his power over the defence and foreign ministers.

The fact that the Foreign Ministry was sidelined during the Ban Romklao conflict should be a lesson for the Samak government and the armed forces. If we are not careful, the Preah Vihear issue could become the next Ban Romklao.

There is a danger now that certain elements in the armed forces might try to dictate to the Foreign Ministry, at a time when its credibility is being undermined by a group of academics who have their own views and positions regarding the Preah Vihear issue.

Compounding the problem is the ongoing power play between supporters of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and those who want to banish him from politics.

Those who removed Thaksin in the Sept 19, 2006 coup are continuing their battle. They have succeeded in unseating Noppadon Pattama _ seen as a close ally of Thaksin's _ from the Foreign Ministry. Now they are dead-set on destroying the government of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej.

The protagonists are using all resources at their disposal to destroy each other. The Preah Vihear issue is caught in this dangerous political game.

Temple dispute: a way out of the impasse

The Bangkok Post
Tuesday July 22, 2008

WILLIAM ROTH

From the daily reporting of the current dispute involving the Preah Vihear temple, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for the average reader to discern what the ''true'' facts are. Various factions on both sides of the border, official and unofficial alike, make conflicting assertions regarding the issues, and the fires of nationalism are being stoked for what seem like clearly political purposes.

Tensions are, understandably, rising and the risk of physical confrontation increases by the day.

It is with these concerns in mind that the following analysis is offered, in the hope that it might shed fresh light on the situation and contribute to a solution beneficial to both countries.

There are three distinct aspects to the current impasse at the Preah Vihear temple: the Legal, the Political, and the Practical.

The Legal

In 1959, Cambodia brought the issue of the sovereignty of the temple to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). In its Application, Cambodia expressly requested the Court ''to adjudge and declare... that the territorial sovereignty over the Temple of Preah Vihear belongs to the Kingdom of Cambodia''.

Since that was what was requested in the initial Application, that was the issue on which the Court rendered its final judgement on June 15, 1962: ''The Temple of Preah Vihear is situated in territory under the sovereignty of Cambodia.''

In retrospect, at least for Cambodia, its initial request in 1959 turned out to be too limited in scope. The Court, in deciding the case, fully adopted Cambodia's assertion that Thailand had in fact accepted the boundary in the area of the temple as marked on a map prepared by the French in 1907. While Cambodia tried, shortly before the Court's judgement in 1962, to modify its claim to ''adjudge and declare that the frontier line between Cambodia and Thailand, in the disputed region in the neighbourhood of the Temple of Preah Vihear, is that which is marked on the map of the Commission of Delimitation between Indo-China and Siam (Annex 1 to the Memorial of Cambodia),'' Thailand rightly objected on the basis that ''the claim to a region 'in the neighbourhood of the temple of Phra Viharn' constitutes an enlargement of the claim presented by the Government of Cambodia in the Application instituting these proceedings and throughout the written pleadings.''

However, from the Court's opinion (the full text of which can be found at http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/45/4871.pdf), it appears inescapable that the Court would have awarded the surrounding land, ''in the neighbourhood of the temple of Phra Viharn,'' to Cambodia had Cambodia so framed the request in its initial Application.

Indeed, in discussing Thailand's claim that the boundary in the area was intended to be the watershed line, the Court said that there is ''no reason to think that the Parties attached any special importance to the line of the watershed as such, as compared with the overriding importance, in the interests of finality, of adhering to the map line as eventually delimited and as accepted by them. The Court, therefore, feels bound, as a matter of treaty interpretation, to pronounce in favour of the line as mapped in the disputed area.''

It is upon this basis that Cambodia, today, claims the so-called ''disputed area'' (often also referred to as ''the 4.6-sqkm overlapping zone''), whereas Thailand relies upon the technically narrow judgement of the Court that only thing legally binding on Thailand under international law is that ''the Temple of Preah Vihear is situated in territory under the sovereignty of Cambodia''.

The Political

From the outset of the filing of the case with the ICJ, the Thai government tenaciously fought back with every conceivable argument. Its main contention _ a good one _ was that it was the original intention of the parties in 1904, when a Commission was tasked with delimiting the border between then French Indo-China and Siam, that the border along the area of the Dangrek Range where the temple sits should be the ''watershed line,'' arguably putting the temple within Thailand.

Moreover, on a more emotional level for the Thai people, when approaching the area of the temple from the Thai side, it seems visually impossible to think that the temple and its immediate surrounding area could possibly be in Cambodia! The temple appears to be a natural continuation of the landscape of Thailand, after which there is a precipitous and very dramatic vertical drop into what is concededly Cambodian territory. As a result, access to the temple is usually made from Thailand, while access from Cambodia _ at least up to the present time _ requires an arduous uphill climb.

There is no question that Thailand felt, and still strongly feels, that the 1962 decision of the ICJ was wrong and that the Thai people were flat-out ''robbed'' of what was rightly theirs.
This understandable feeling of hurt and dismay is by no means lessened _ and indeed must be exacerbated _ by the reasons the Court found in favour of Cambodia. To put it bluntly, if somewhat crudely, the Thai government repeatedly botched this matter from 1907 to 1959.

From the Court's meticulous and careful recitation of the facts, it is clear that over the years there were numerous opportunities for Thailand to rectify or ''fix'' the matter in Thailand's favour, but on each occasion the opportunities were either ignored or missed entirely.

These facts amply support the Court's conclusion that the Thai government, by its own conduct, implicitly had accepted the Annex I map as accurately marking the border with Cambodia.
Nonetheless, from Thailand's perspective today, the temple and the surrounding area all should have belonged to it, and the current effort to assert sovereignty over the ''disputed area'' adjacent to the temple is based on an understandable desire to retain as much land in the area as it possibly can.

By contrast, the Cambodians are justly proud that a magnificently located temple, built by their Khmer ancestors, is recognised not only as being in Cambodian territory, but is now a World Heritage Site!

Needless to say, on maps published by Cambodia, the border with Thailand is in conformity with the Annex I map relied upon by the ICJ, making the temple and the surrounding ''disputed area'' clearly Cambodian territory.

The Practical

From the above discussion it should be plain that both sides, Cambodia and Thailand, have understandable, and indeed strong, ''claims'' to the disputed area.

And that is precisely the problem.

The current fight over this area is being waged on the basis of ''sovereignty'': the disputed area is either Cambodian or Thai, allowing no room for compromise.

Cambodia undoubtedly feels that, from a legal standpoint, if the case involving the disputed area were once again to go before the ICJ, Cambodia would win.

The Thai government most likely thinks the same thing, and so, politically, it will never agree to such a venue (''once burned, twice shy!'').

(In 1959, Cambodia was able to bring Thailand to the ICJ because, in 1950, Thailand had accepted the Court's jurisdiction for a period of 10 years. That acceptance has not been renewed, and so without Thailand's express consent, Cambodia today cannot force Thailand to have the ICJ adjudicate the current boundary dispute.)

However, the disputed area surrounding the temple itself also contains related Khmer artefacts, and in administering the temple, particularly as a World Heritage site, the entire area (perhaps even beyond the ''disputed area'') should be administered as a single entity. Indeed, the World Heritage listing provides both countries with an excellent opportunity for increased tourism and accompanying revenue.

But so long as the two countries remain at loggerheads over the sovereignty issue of the disputed area, progress on joint administration of the entire area most likely will be difficult and lengthy.

As a result, not only will Thailand lose the opportunity to reap the obvious immediate benefits of being the only viable gateway to a new World Heritage Site (access from Thailand currently is denied because of the ''tensions''), but these delays in administering the site are giving the Cambodians time to develop their own competing tourist infrastructure _ including plans to provide easier access to the temple from Cambodia itself.

Rather than continue arguing endlessly about which country owns the disputed area, a much better approach would be for both countries to immediately agree that it is something akin to an ''international peace park,'' with neither side claiming ''sovereignty''.

Instead, a joint commission could be established to provide security in the disputed area, and, in close cooperation with the World Heritage Committee, provide overall administration for a larger area reasonably related to the temple compound.

In this way both countries could immediately begin to benefit from a site which, historically, has been considered sacred to the people on both sides and one without borders.

William Roth teaches International Law at Chulalongkorn University. He visited the temple in 2001.

Cambodia's corruption 'cancer' unlikely to sway voters

Ranariddh Party supporters rally in Phnom Penh on June 26. Cambodia is rising from the ashes of civil war and the brutal legacy of the Khmer Rouge's "Killing Fields," but it remains hobbled by endemic corruption hindering its efforts to escape poverty.(AFP/File/Sreng Meng Srun)

Supporters of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) rally in Phnom Penh on July 13. Cambodia is rising from the ashes of civil war and the brutal legacy of the Khmer Rouge's "Killing Fields," but it remains hobbled by endemic corruption hindering its efforts to escape poverty.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)


Cambodian opposition party leader Sam Rainsy (centre) stands on a truck as he greets supporters during an election rally in Phnom Penh on June 26. Cambodia is rising from the ashes of civil war and the brutal legacy of the Khmer Rouge's "Killing Fields," but it remains hobbled by endemic corruption hindering its efforts to escape poverty.(AFP/File/Tang Chhin Sothy)

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodia is rising from the ashes of civil war and the brutal legacy of the Khmer Rouge's "Killing Fields," but it remains hobbled by endemic corruption hindering its efforts to escape poverty.

As the country records high economic growth, authorities have been accused of extorting payoffs and officials have been linked to everything from high profile land grabs and skimming off development projects to illegal logging.

"Corruption is the biggest problem for the nation. Corruption is like a cancer right now -- it happens everywhere," said Kek Galabru, head of local human rights group Licadho.

Cambodia remains mired near the bottom of Transparency International's global corruption index, indicating the government is among the most graft-ridden on the planet.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has said that his government is acutely aware that "corruption is a dangerous cancer" that needs to be tackled "without compromise."

But as Cambodia heads into elections Sunday, analysts say there's no sign that rampant corruption will hurt his Cambodian People's Party (CPP) at the polls, which it is widely expected to dominate.

Hun Sen has promised to hand over his personal properties to the new government if the CPP fails to win, apparently in an effort to counter allegations that his government is too corrupt to stay in power.

However, the CPP is the only one of the 11 parties in the campaign that has not promised to pass a long-awaited anti-corruption law.

Main opposition leader Sam Rainsy kicked off his campaign by declaring to cheering supporters: "Down with the corrupt group!"

But he said in an interview that many voters don't have a full understanding of the way corruption affects their lives.

"When people see what corruption is and what bad activities there are, they will support the SRP," Sam Rainsy told AFP, referring to his party.

International donors, who fund half the country's budget, have repeatedly demanded that the government take stronger action against corruption since UN-backed elections in 1993 brought democracy here.

Hun Sen lost that first election to a royalist party, but he bargained his way into a power-sharing deal and then reasserted total control in a 1997 coup.

Hundreds of people were killed in the run-up to elections the following year, and protests against the CPP victory were put down violently.

The last national election in 2003 was far less violent, and this year's campaign has seen even fewer irregularities than in the past, said monitors.

This could be partly because the country is more stable, with double-digit economic growth from garment exports and tourism helping to pull Cambodia from the ruins of civil war.

Up to two million people died of starvation and overwork, or were executed, as the communist Khmer Rouge dismantled modern Cambodia in a bid to forge an agrarian utopia during its 1975-1979 rule.

Despite the recent stability, Cambodia remains one of the world's poorest nations. Some 35 percent of its 14 million people live on less than 50 US cents a day, and economists say corruption is a major drag on the nation's growth.

But persistent poverty does not mean that voters will turn against the government on polling day.

"This (the opposition's anti-corruption) message may sway some voters, but is not decisive to change the leadership," said Lao Mong Hay, a senior researcher at the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission.

"The issues do not affect voters' decision as much as personalities."

The CPP has relied on Hun Sen's broad rural appeal and its record of gradual development in its pursuit of victory, and some analysts said this makes voters forget about rampant corruption.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said only a "small handful" of his party members were corrupt and said it deals with graft "step by step towards development."

"We are not neglectful about fighting graft," Cheam Yeap said. "Fighting corruption is the hot issue that we care about."

Waiting game

Vandy Rattana Cambodian soldiers walk past razor wire that has been laid near Preah Vihear temple as a military standoff with Thailand continues.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath and Brendan Brady
Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Talks between Thai and Cambodian military leaders to end the standoff at Preah Vihear have deadlocked after the Thai side insisted on recognizing a different border between the two countries, Cambodian negotiators said.

The failure to reach a solution has forced Cambodia to seek an intervention from its regional neighbors, the foreign ministry said Tuesday, a day after military leaders walked away empty-handed from the negotiating table.

Thousands of troops and equipment, including heavy artillery, from both sides have been deployed to the border in the largest military build-up in years following last week's alleged incursion into Cambodia by Thai soldiers.

An area of 4.8 square kilometers around the temple remains in dispute after the World Court ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear belongs to Cambodia.

The issue escalated following Preah Vihear's July 7 listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's government coming under fire for supporting Cambodia's World Heritage bid amid accusations that Thailand's leaders were ceding territory to Cambodia.

Bangkok maintains that its troops are occupying Thai territory located a short distance from the 11th-century temple – a claim that has repeatedly been rejected by Cambodia.

"At first, everything in the meeting was going very well. But at the end, it failed because the Thai side raised the issue of its right to use its own map," said Bun Seng, commander of Cambodian Military Region 5, who attended the eight-hour talks Monday in the Thai-Cambodian border town of Aranyaprathet.

"We have different ideas on this point. We use the map drawn by France in 1904 and 1907, but the Thai side wants to use its own map. It's completely different," he told the Post on Tuesday.

"That is why when they raised the issue of the map, everything failed. I am very disappointed," he added.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith also confirmed that the talks had ended without resolution, but said that both sides agreed that the standoff would not escalate into armed conflict.

Cambodia's government called Tuesday on its regional neighbors to intervene in the issue, asking Asean chair Singapore to form an "inter-ministerial group" to mediate a solution to end the standoff, according to a statement from the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Asean leader had earlier urged both sides to exercise restraint as they continued to deploy troops to the area.

In Preah Vihear, the failure of the countries' military leader to resolve the crisis came as no surprise to many troops on the ground.

"I'm not surprised there has not been an agreement since so much has happened already," Vou Vinak, a 26 year-old Cambodian soldier, told the Post Monday night along what has become a de facto frontline near the temple.

Coils of razor wire have been laid in parts of the temple compound, while heavily armed Thai and Cambodian soldiers from who have gathered near a Buddhist pagoda that is claimed by both sides continued to eye each other warily.

"I'm very frustrated. I've been made to leave my family. Thailand made this problem by invading, so they should fix it," said another soldier, Sim Nara.

Bun Seng said talks are expected to continue, but nothing has yet been scheduled.

"We have tried hard for success, but then the Thai side made it [the meeting] fail. We will have further negotiations, but we do not know when," he said.

Ex-Khmer Rouge troops, officers talk tough at standoff

Gulf Times
Tuesday, 22 July, 2008

PREAH VIHEAR: They may wear flip-flops, but most the Cambodian forces facing Thai troops at a border standoff are battle-tested former Khmer Rouge fighters, officers and soldiers said yesterday.

More than 500 Thai troops and well over 1,000 Cambodian soldiers have been stationed for a week around a small Buddhist pagoda on the slope of a mountain leading to the ruins of the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple. The mood at the standoff was calm yesterday as each side chatted, snapped photos and shared meals with each other, a stark contrast to Thursday when they pointed guns at each other, though no shots were fired.

The former Khmer Rouge guerrillas said they were eager to fight and the Thai troops should not be fooled by their appearance – the Cambodians wear flip-flops and sport Cold War-era guns.

They said we are small and are wearing flip-flops, but with flip-flops we can move very quickly. We know the area very well. We are small but strong,” said Doung Tay, 32, who began fighting for the Khmer Rouge when he was 12.

The Thai troops, with modern arms and uniforms, appear better prepared.“The Thai soldiers only know the theories of fighting. They said that we are small but they don’t know that we are wild chickens,” said Yan San, 47, who became a Khmer Rouge soldier when he was 15.

“I want to fight with the Thai soldiers,” he added.

Brigadier Chea Koe, commander of forces in the disputed area and himself a former Khmer Rouge soldier, said more than 60% of his troops fought for the brutal Marxist regime which ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979.

Leaders from both countries have ordered troops not to fire and called for a peaceful solution. Thai and Cambodian defence officials met yesterday in a bid to resolve the crisis which broke out last week.

Nearly 2mn people died from starvation, overwork, torture and execution during the four-year Khmer Rouge regime before it was swept from power by Vietnam-backed troops.

Preah Vihear temple was the scene of the final surrender of several hundred remaining Khmer Rouge guerrilla forces in 1998.

The current confrontation around Preah Vihear began after three Thai protesters were arrested for jumping a fence to reach the temple last Tuesday.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear belongs to Cambodia. But the most accessible entrance to the Khmer ruins lies in Thailand and 4.6 sq km of the surrounding land remains in dispute. – AFP

Scribe's Murder, Temple Dispute Muddy Cambodian Polls

Dancers perform during an election rally in Phnom Penh. Cambodia will hold a general election on July 27. (Photo: Reuters)

By ANDREW NETTE
Tuesday, July 22, 2008

PHNOM PENH — Cambodia has entered the final week of its national election campaign shocked by the murder of a well-known journalist and facing an increasingly tense standoff with Thailand over a disputed 11th century Hindu temple.

The July 11 slaying of Khim Sambo in a drive-by-shooting in Phnom Penh has cast a cloud over the poll, which until then had been largely free of serious violence, and sent shock waves through the journalist community.

"For Cambodian people it is scary," said Kek Galabru, president of Licadho, a prominent local human rights organization that is investigating the incident. "The killing will have a negative impact on the election. In journalists it will increase self-censorship. There is a chilling effect.
Everyone is wondering who will be next."

Although some have claimed that the Sambo killing was an election-related political assassination, no evidence has been produced to back this.

"We estimate at 70 percent (probability) that this is a revenge case," Phnom Penh police commissioner Touch Naroth told the media last week. "The journalist could have had personal conflicts."

The most feasible explanation, according to local and international human rights groups, is that Sambo was killed because of his articles.

A veteran reporter for the newspaper ‘Monseaseka,’ or Khmer Conscience, which is affiliated to the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), the country’s main opposition political party, Sambo reported on issues relating to corruption, land grabbing and other controversial topics.

Monseaseka’s editor, Dam Sith, an SRP election candidate, was last month charged with defamation against a senior government minister and jailed for a week.

In a statement the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said it was "concerned that Sambo may have been targeted in reprisal for his reporting on government corruption."

"My feeling is that it is certainly related to what he wrote," said Galabru. "Whatever the case, there was a crime and we want the authorities to mount a serious investigation to being the perpetrators to justice."

No one has yet been arrested for the killing and opposition parties and human rights investigators are pessimistic that any one will be.

According to the United Nations Office of High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Cambodia, Sambo’s killing is one of eight similar murders and attempted murders of journalists since 1994.

In all the cases cited by OHCHR no one was arrested and the perpetrators remain at large.

The uncertainty relating to Sambo’s death says much about the difficulties facing journalists in Cambodia. Almost all Cambodia’s media is politically aligned, either through the direct ownership by parties or by wealthy individuals who have strong political connections.

According to a May 2008 Licadho study on the state of the country’s media, journalists are typically poorly paid and many live in fear of physical or legal attack because of their work. "Fear is a fact of life for many of Cambodia’s journalists," it said.

The study cited a 2007 survey of 150 journalists which showed that 65 percent of them were afraid of being physically attacked, and 62 percent feared legal action. "More tellingly, 54 percent said they had been threatened with physical harm or legal action,’’ the survey said.

The report also stated that problems also arise from endemic corruption in the media, with many journalists regularly taking bribes for favorable coverage or for not reporting stories.

"Even if it (the Sambo killing) is not politically related the environment of fear it creates is a serious issue", said Mar Sophal, monitoring coordinator with the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia.

It is difficult to get accurate figures on the number of killings and acts of violence related to the election.

According to Sophal, by the end of last week there had been at least four politics-related deaths during the official four-week campaign period. Three of the victims were CPP-affiliated activists. The fourth was an opposition party supporter.

Another issue creating uncertainty in the closing stages of the Sunday election is the escalating dispute between Phnom Penh and Bangkok over the ownership of the Preah Vihear temple that stands on the border between the two neighboring countries.

The standoff has placed Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) in a difficult position.

They must prevent a broader conflict while placating public anger over the presence of Thai soldiers in the temple, which many in the Khmer media are calling "an invasion".

The United Nations’ recognition of the temple as Cambodian produced a massive public outpouring of national fervor across the country, with mass rallies, cultural celebrations and fireworks displays. CPP officials were quick to credit the World Heritage committee’s decision to Hun Sen’s leadership and placed advertisements in all the Khmer newspapers stating this.

"They have tried to take credit for it and have used the state budget to promote themselves as heroes," said Son Chhay, an SRP parliamentarian. "Now they have backed off given their desire not to antagonize the Thais."

In a letter sent Saturday to the Thai Prime Minister, Hun Sen maintained the temple is Cambodian, but pressed for a negotiated end to the stalemate.

Indeed, it is the opposition parties that are now trying to take advantage of the situation.

In a statement released last week the SRP called the presence of Thai soldiers at the temple "an invasion" and said the government should refuse to negotiate "as long as the Thai government remains on Cambodian territory".

It demanded the withdrawal of the Thai ambassador and steps to "strengthen the armed forces into a national army that is capable and well-equipped with adequate weapons to withstand the invasion of neighboring countries."

Asean to discuss Cambodia request for mediation in border row

The Bangkok Post
Singapore (dpa)

Foreign ministers of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) met Tuesday to discuss a request by Cambodia to mediate in its border row with Thailand.

Asean Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan said the ministers of the 10-country grouping met on the sidelines of its annual meetings to discuss the tension among its two members.

"It's unfortunate that we have to deal with the issues of two neighbours but we cannot control the situation," he said. "Whether or not the situation is dangerous, that has to be assessed."

A meeting on Monday between a joint border committee of Cambodia and Thailand did not produce satisfactory results, prompting Phnom Penh to seek the help of Asean in resolving the issue.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Nam Hong, who was not present in the Asean meeting, asked Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo, current chair of Asean, to mediate in the dispute.

On Sunday, the Asean ministers urged its two bickering members to exercise utmost restraint and to settle the problem amicably and offered the facilities of Asean to hasten the resolution of the row.

Nearly 1,000 Cambodian troops and 500 Thai soldiers continue to face each other on the disputed territory since the tension began a week ago.

Cambodia calls for UN Security Council meet on Thai border issue

The Straits Times
July 22, 2008

PREAH VIHEAR (Cambodia) - CAMBODIA called on Tuesday for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council to resolve a military standoff with neighbouring Thailand over a temple.

More than 500 Thai troops are facing off against at least 1,000 Cambodian soldiers around a small Buddhist pagoda on disputed land near the ruins of an ancient temple, which belongs to Cambodia.

'In order to avoid armed confrontation' the country requests 'an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council to find a solution to the problem in accordance with international laws', the Cambodian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said earlier on Tuesday that a third party was needed to help solve the stand-off.

Senior Thai and Cambodian defence officials emerged from hours of closed-door talks on Monday with no resolution to the week-long standoff.

Thailand, however, does not want foreign mediators involved in its border dispute with Cambodia, a Thai military official said on Tuesday. He conceded though that the two sides were at a stalemate.

'The problem was that we and Cambodia are using two different maps. Cambodian is using the French version while we used a US-drawn map, thus it's hard for us to reach agreement,' General Boonsrang Niumpradit, Thailand's chief negotiator in the dispute said on Thai television.
On Cambodia's suggestion to take their dispute to the World Court in The Hague and to hold a UN Security Council meeting on the crisis, Gen Boonsrang said the Thai side was not keen on international involvement.

'The dispute should be discussed between the two countries,' he said. 'Better that than elevating it to Asean (the Association of South-east Asian Nations) or the UN.'

Gen Boonsrang said, however, that tensions between the two countries may ease after elections in Cambodia on July 27.

'It will be easier to talk after the elections,' he said.

Regional interventionEarlier, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong asked Singapore, the chair of the Association of South-east Asian Nations, to form a regional 'inter-ministerial group ... to help find a peaceful solution to the current crisis and avoid military confrontation between the two Asean members'.

In his letter to Singapore's Foreign Minister George Yeo late on Monday, Mr Hor Namhong asked that the group comprise the foreign ministers of Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and Laos.

'Thai troops with artillery and tanks are building up along the border, constituting a very serious threat not only to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Cambodia, but also to peace and stability in the region,' he said in the letter seen on Tuesday.

The Asean foreign ministers are holding their annual meeting in Singapore this week.

Several thousand Thai and Cambodian troops are to remain along their countries' shared border after Monday's talks failed to resolve a now eight-day dispute over land near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple.

Representatives from both countries nevertheless reiterated their commitment to avoiding an armed conflict as the one-day meeting ended in the Thai-Cambodian border town of Aranyaprahet.

'The most important thing is to avoid a confrontation so that there is no violence,' Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh told reporters, adding that 'the temperature ... hasn't been reduced'.

Thai Supreme Commander Boonsrang Niempradit refused to describe the talks as a failure, while insisting troops from both countries would remain near the temple but would 'not use any violence or weapons'.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that the 11th century Preah Vihear temple belongs to Cambodia. But the most accessible entrance lies in Thailand, and 4.6 square kilometres of the surrounding land remains in dispute, stirring nationalist sentiment in both countries.

Tensions flared last week when three Thais tried to enter Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple, and both sides stationed troops around a small Buddhist pagoda on a mountain slope leading to the temple ruins.

Asean grapples with disputeSouth-east Asian nations also grappled on Tuesday with the vexing issue of democracy in Myanmar and a simmering border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia ahead of a key security meeting of regional superpowers.

'What we need is for Cambodia and Thailand to really exercise their utmost restraint ... to prevent any outbreak of open conflict,' Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda told reporters.

There must be a 'cooling off' by the two sides, said Mr Wirajuda, who is here to attend the annual foreign ministers' meeting of the Association of South-east Asian Nations through Thursday. -- AFP, AP

Cambodia wants UN to resolve military standoff

A Cambodian soldier relaxes near a rocket launcher outside a Buddhist pagoda where Thai soldiers have occupied, near Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Tuesday, July 22, 2008. Cambodia has requested an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council to break a military stalemate with neighboring Thailand over disputed frontier territory around a historic temple. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)


By SOPHENG CHEANG

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia asked the U.N. Security Council and its Southeast Asian neighbors to intervene in resolving a military standoff over disputed border territory around an ancient temple, stepping up its rhetoric against Thailand.

"In the face of this imminent state of war, this a very serious threat to our independence and territorial integrity, we have an obligation to resort to the U.N. Security Council," said Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, using the harshest terms yet in the confrontation.
There was no immediate reaction from the Thai government.

The dispute over 1.8 square miles of land near the Preah Vihear temple escalated earlier this month when UNESCO approved Cambodia's application to have the complex named a World Heritage Site.

More than 4,000 troops have been deployed around the temple and in the immediate vicinity since July 15.
The troops are to remain in place, but the two sides nevertheless reiterated their commitment to avoiding an armed conflict as a bilateral meeting in the Thai-Cambodian border town of Aranyaprathet ended without a deal.

On Tuesday, Cambodia launched a diplomatic offensive.

Hor Namhong made his statement during a meeting with several foreign ambassadors, including those from countries that are permanent members of the Security Council.

He said the Cambodian ambassador in New York Monday submitted his country's request for an emergency meeting of the council to find a solution to the problem in accordance with international laws.

Cambodia is also seeking regional intervention.

Hor Namhong asked Singapore, the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, to form a regional "inter-ministerial group ... to help find a peaceful solution to the current crisis and avoid military confrontation."

Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat said the Cabinet was waiting for a report from Deputy Prime Minister Sahas Banditkul, who is representing Thailand at the Singapore meeting.

"It is a sensitive issue and we are worried about the current standoff. We are waiting to hear from him before making comments," Somchai told reporters.

The Cambodian Foreign Ministry statement said talks failed "because Thailand insisted on using a map drawn unilaterally, thus violating Cambodia's territory."

It said Cambodia was adhering to a map, drawn up in 1908, which was endorsed by the International Court of Justice when it awarded the disputed temple to Cambodia in a 1962 ruling.

Thailand's "aggression" also violated the 1976 Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia drawn up by ASEAN, the statement said.

In a letter to Singapore's Foreign Minister George Yeo late Monday, Hor Namhong asked that the foreign ministers of Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and Laos be included in a group to resolve the crisis.

"Thai troops with artillery and tanks are building up along the border, constituting a very serious threat not only to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Cambodia, but also to peace and stability in the region," he said in the letter seen Tuesday.

The ASEAN foreign ministers are holding their annual meeting in Singapore this week.

Thailand sent troops to the border after anti-government demonstrators attacked Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's government for supporting Cambodia's request to designate the temple a World Heritage Site. And Cambodia responded with its own deployment.

The Thai protesters claim the temple's new status will undermine their country's claim to the disputed patch of land.

Despite the deadlock, the atmosphere appeared relaxed Tuesday between the two forces at the site.

Opposing soldiers mingled casually. Some were lying in hammocks, while others sat on rocks swinging their legs with their weapons on their laps or on the ground near them.

"Nothing has changed. We have received orders to continue maintaining patience" after the talks failed, Cambodian Brig. Gen. Chea Keo said Tuesday.

"We're disappointed that this has happened," U.S. Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli told reporters after the Tuesday meeting with Hor Namhong.

"The movement of troops is something that is always worrisome. When you have that many young men with that many weapons in that close proximity, there's always a danger of violence," he said, calling on both countries to try to resolve their standoff "in a peaceful, fair manner."

Associated Press writers Ambika Ahuja and Sutin Wannabovorn in Bangkok, Thailand, Ker Munthit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and writer Sumeth Panpetch along the Thai-Cambodian border contributed to this report.

Cambodia wants Security Council meeting

Cambodian soldiers relax as they hold rocket launchers outside a Buddhist pagoda where Thai soldiers have occupied, near Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Tuesday, July 22, 2008. Cambodia has requested an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council to break a military stalemate with neighboring Thailand over disputed frontier territory around a historic temple. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

By SOPHENG CHEANG

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (AP) — Stepping up its diplomatic offensive, Cambodia has asked the U.N. Security Council and its Southeast Asian neighbors to help resolve a military standoff over disputed border territory around an ancient temple.

The government requested an emergency meeting of the council "to find a solution to the problem in accordance with international laws," said a Foreign Ministry statement received Tuesday.

Cambodia is also seeking regional intervention after talks between the neighbors Monday failed to end the stalemate around the Preah Vihear temple.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong asked Singapore, the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, to form a regional "inter-ministerial group ... to help find a peaceful solution to the current crisis and avoid military confrontation."

There was no immediate reaction from the Thai government to the initiatives.

The dispute over 1.8 square miles of land near the temple escalated earlier this month when UNESCO approved Cambodia's application to have the complex named a World Heritage Site.
More than 4,000 troops have been deployed around the temple and in the immediate vicinity since July 15.

The troops are to remain in place, but the two sides nevertheless reiterated their commitment to avoiding an armed conflict as Monday's bilateral meeting ended in the Thai-Cambodian border town of Aranyaprathet.

"The most important thing is to avoid a confrontation so that there is no violence," Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh told reporters, adding that "the temperature ... hasn't been reduced."

Thai Supreme Commander Boonsrang Niempradit refused to describe the talks as a failure, while insisting troops from both countries would stay put, but would "not use any violence or weapons."

The Cambodian Foreign Ministry statement said talks failed "because Thailand insisted on using a map drawn unilaterally, thus violating Cambodia's territory."

It said Cambodia was adhering to a map, drawn up in 1908, which was endorsed by the International Court of Justice when it awarded the disputed temple to Cambodia in a 1962 ruling.

Thailand's "aggression" also violated the 1976 Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia drawn up by ASEAN, the statement said.

In a letter to Singapore's Foreign Minister George Yeo late Monday, Cambodia's Hor Namhong asked that the foreign ministers of Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and Laos be included in a group to resolve the crisis.

"Thai troops with artillery and tanks are building up along the border, constituting a very serious threat not only to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Cambodia, but also to peace and stability in the region," he said in the letter seen Tuesday.

The ASEAN foreign ministers are holding their annual meeting in Singapore this week.

Thailand sent troops to the border after anti-government demonstrators attacked Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's government for supporting Cambodia's request to designate the temple a World Heritage Site. And Cambodia responded with its own deployment.

The Thai protesters claim the temple's new status will undermine their country's claim to the disputed patch of land.

"It is a deadlock at this point and that means the relationship between the two countries will go from bad to worse," Surachart Bamrungsuk, a security analyst at Chulalongkorn University's faculty of Political Science, said Monday about the failed talks.

Still, the atmosphere appeared relaxed Tuesday, despite the close proximity of the two forces at the site.
Opposing soldiers mingled casually. Some were lying in hammocks, while others sat on rocks swinging their legs with their weapons on their laps or on the ground near them.

"Nothing has changed. We have received orders to continue maintaining patience" after the talks failed, Cambodian Brig. Gen. Chea Keo said Tuesday.

Associated Press writers Ambika Ahuja and Sutin Wannnabovorn in Bangkok, Thailand, Ker Munthit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and writer Sumeth Panpetch along the Thai-Cambodian border contributed to this report.

Cambodia informs compatriots about Thai encroachment of its territory

Cambodian military police patrol Preah Vihear temple, 245 km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, July 21, 2008. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

www.chinaview.cn
2008-07-22

PHNOM PENH, July 22 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia has spoken more seriously about its border dispute with Thailand, as its foreign ministry issued a letter Tuesday to its compatriots to tell about the Thai occupation of its territory and the ensuing Thai military threat.

"On July 15 2008, the armed forces of Thailand encroached on Cambodian territory in the vicinity of the Preah Vihear Temple," said the letter dated Monday and made public Tuesday morning.

"Thailand has violated the international boundary of the two countries which had been delineated since 1908 by the Mixed Commission composed of representatives from Siam (now called Thailand) and a delegation of the Protectorate Power (namely France) representing Cambodia at that time," said the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in the letter addressed to all the kingdom's compatriots.

"To date, the diplomatic efforts of the Royal Government of Cambodia to persuade Thailand to withdraw its troops and return to the status quo prior to July 15 2008 have been to no avail," it said.

"The negotiations were not successful because Thailand insisted on using a map drawn unilaterally, thus violating Cambodia's territory," it said.

Therefore, the ministry decided to "request for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to find a solution to the problem in accordance with international law," it added.

Hor Namhong, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, is currently meeting with the ambassadors from the five permanent member countries of the UN Security Council and will hold a press conference before Tuesday noon to make clear Cambodia's latest reaction to the dispute.

Earlier Monday, he asked Singapore, the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to rally the foreign ministers of Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and Laos, to find a way to help ease the tension at the Cambodian-Thai border.

"Thai troops with artillery and tanks are building up along the border, constituting a very serious threat not only to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Cambodia, but also to peace and stability in the region," he told ASEAN in a letter.

Also Monday in Thailand, bilateral top-level talks failed to produce any consensus in regard with the military standoff near their border.

Last Tuesday, three Thai protesters trespassed the border to reclaim the temple, but were immediately arrested. Thai troops then came in to fetch them, thus triggering face-off with Cambodian soldiers there. Bilateral military build-up occurred dayby day. Currently, the troops there are widely estimated at thousands.

In 1962, the International Court of Justice awarded the 11th century classic Khmer-style Preah Vihear Temple, together with the land it occupies, to Cambodia. The decision has rankled the Thais ever since.

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

Secretary-General appeals for calm between Cambodia and Thailand

UN NEWS CENTRE
escalation of tensions between Cambodia and Thailand, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on both sides to peacefully resolve the situation.

There is a build-up of military forces near the Preah Vihear Temple in Cambodia, which was inscribed on the World Heritage List of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) earlier this month.

“The Secretary-General calls for restraint on both sides and hopes that this matter can be resolved peacefully and by diplomatic means in the context of the excellent relations that traditional exist between the two countries,” according to a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson.

The temple, which dates back to the 11th century, and was recognized by the World Heritage Committee for “its natural situation on a promontory, with sheer cliffs overlooking a vast plain and mountain range; the quality of its architecture adapted to the natural environment and religious function of the temple; and, finally, the exceptional quality of the carved stone ornamentation of the temple.”

News #9 - Preah Vihear - 21.07.2008

Cambodian-Thai Border Talks Fail to Reach Solution

VOA
By Liam Cochrane
2-348523
21 July 2008

Cochrane report - Download (MP3)
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Top-level talks between Thailand and Cambodia have failed to resolve a dispute over who owns an ancient temple. The talks were called after Thai soldiers entered Cambodia and troops from both countries gathered along the disputed border.

Liam Cochrane reports from Preah Viheah temple on the Cambodian-Thai border.The Defense Ministers of Cambodian and Thailand met Monday at a border town away from the disputed temple site.

They spoke for eight hours, but the discussion ended without a solution to the dispute or a schedule for further talks.

The Director General of the National Authority for Preah Viheah, Professor Hang Soth says the two sides had different ideas on how to resolve the standoff, but said the Cambodian government was committed to finding a non-violent solution.

"No matter how long it takes, Cambodian government still calm, still use any new way to find peace, never want to make the conflict and no want to have fighting with each other," he said.

At Preah Viheah temple, Cambodian and Thai soldiers chatted and posed for photographs together in an atmosphere that was mostly friendly.

But both sides have hundreds of well-armed troops and heavy machine guns in place in case fighting does break out. Thailand sent troops to the border after anti-government demonstrators attacked Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's government for supporting Cambodia's request to designate the temple a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Thai protesters say the temple's new status will undermine their country's claim to land around the site.

Cambodia turns down Thai request to review border lines

www.chinaview.cn
2008-07-22

PHNOM PENH, July 21 (Xinhua) -- The Cambodian side Monday turned down the Thai side's request to review the border lines, during the meeting of the General Border Committee (GBC) between both countries held in Thai province of Sa Kaew, said a senior Cambodian official.

"We had good negotiation with the Thai side. We agreed with each other on one point and another, but the Cambodian side didn't agree the Thai side's request to review the border lines with us. We already had border lines with the Thai side according to the treaties signed by France and Thailand in 1904 and 1907. It was international border," said Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense Tea Banh at a press conference held at the Poit Pet town of Cambodia near the border upon his arrival at homeland.

"This was the hottest issue (during the meeting), but we just couldn't accept it," said Tea Banh, who led the Cambodian delegation to Thailand for the eight-hour top-level meeting originally meant to solve the seven-day bilateral military standoff at the border area.

Meanwhile, Var Kim Hong, chairman of the Cambodian Border Committee and member of the Cambodian delegation to Thailand, said that the Thai side insisted on saying that both sides didn't have border lines on land and only had border lines in air.

"We couldn't accept it because France and Thailand signed border treaties in 1904 and 1907. Actually, we already had border lines and they were stipulated in these international treaties," he added.

France was protectorate of Cambodia from 1863 to 1953.

In addition, Tea Banh told reporters at the press conference that the meeting didn't reach any resolution to withdraw the Thai troops stationed near the Preah Vihear Temple, but the major achievement was the promise made by both sides not to allow any violence and confrontation at the border area near the temple.

"Both troops won't mobilize and have to keep calm," he was quoted by national radio VOA as saying.

The two countries will have more meetings, but the date is not clear yet, the radio added.

Right after the meeting was over in Thailand, the Cambodian delegation held a joint press conference with the Thai side, saying that they could understand each other and the talks were held in friendly atmosphere, but nothing resulted.

It included complicated legal matters, so the delegations could not make any decision, they said.

Anyway, there will be no any violence and confrontation at the border area in order to guarantee a peaceful environment, especially for the ongoing Cambodian general election, whose polling date falls on July 27, they added.

Before the negotiation, both prime minister had exchanged letters, saying that the two countries should make utmost effort to prevent the border situation from deteriorating, so as to preserve long-lasting friendship and good cooperation between the two peoples.

Last Tuesday, three Thai protesters trespassed the border to reclaim the temple, but were immediately arrested. Thai troops then came in to fetch them, thus triggering face-off with Cambodian soldiers there. Bilateral military build-up occurred day by day. Currently, the troops there are widely estimated at thousands.

In 1962, the International Court of Justice awarded the 11- century classic Khmer-style Preah Vihear Temple, together with the land it occupies, to Cambodia. 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: Mu Xuequan

Why Thai-Cambodian temple dispute lingers

Whose ancient temple is it? Thailand and Cambodia failed Monday to end a weeklong border dispute at Preah Vihear. Both sides’ troops are stationed nearby.Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom

Each side has domestic reasons to prolong the conflict.

By Simon Montlake Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
from the July 22, 2008 edition

Bangkok, Thailand - Senior security officials from Thailand and Cambodia failed Monday to defuse a border dispute centered on a 10th-century temple that has seen hundreds of troops mobilized on both sides and claims by Cambodia of incursions by Thai soldiers.

After a week of saber-rattling over Preah Vihear, which UNESCO recently designated as a World Heritage Site for Cambodia, Thai analysts and Western diplomats say there is a risk that tempers could flare. Neither side wants to be seen backing down, since parties on both sides are using the dispute to further domestic political goals, especially in Thailand.

"Nobody wants to see this dispute escalate," says a Thai military officer, who requested anonymity. "We are doing our best not to let anything happen.... Cambodia understands that the problem arises from domestic political problems in Thailand."

The risk of violence, though, remains slight as the two militaries have a close working relationship. No shots have been fired, and the only injuries came when Thai nationalists clashed last week with local Thai villagers opposed to their campaign against Cambodia's claim to the temple.

Domestic politics fuel conflict

Still, with opposition politicians in both countries playing nationalism cards, the row may prove hard to douse. Five years ago, a rumor that a Thai actress had spoken of taking back Angkor Wat, another temple, sparked anti-Thai riots in Phnom Penh. The Thai Embassy was torched and Thai nationals in Cambodia had to be evacuated by military aircraft.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is campaigning ahead of national elections on Sunday, and opponents who lag far behind in opinion polls have attacked his handling of the row, as well as his lauding of the temple's new status.

A more proximate cause, though, lies in Bangkok. Here, opponents of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, who have led months of street protests and lawsuits against his government, have used the issue to accuse it of surrendering sovereignty.

"It doesn't seem too complicated to fix [the dispute]. But Thai politics [are] so polarized that it's being used to accuse the government of selling out the country. Sentiment is high on the Thai side," says Gothom Arya, a peace advocate and chairman of the National Economics and Social Advisory Council, a government think-tank.

At a summit in Singapore, foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which groups Thailand, Cambodia, and eight others in the region, called for "utmost restraint" on the border. Cambodia said Sunday that it had written to the UN Security Council about the alleged Thai incursions, but insisted it wasn't trying to involve the UN in bilateral talks, the Associated Press reported.

A history of border disputes

Seemingly minor territorial disputes have long plagued Southeast Asia, whose colonial-era borders overwrote divisions of bygone kingdoms. Singapore and Malaysia have scrapped for years over claims to tiny islands. Thailand fought a brief border war with Laos in the 1980s. For their part, Cambodians are suspicious of Vietnamese designs on its territory, a legacy of both centuries-old rivalry and a period of occupation after Vietnam's 1979 ouster of the genocidal Khmer Rouge government.

Thai nationalists are still smarting over France's delineation of their border with Cambodia, a former French colony, which had ruled Thailand during the heyday of the Angkor period, before shrinking in size. In 1962, the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled that Preah Vihear belonged to Cambodia, but the status of the surrounding Thai-administered area wasn't determined.

Overlapping interests

Thai nationalists fear that the temple's designation will weaken Thailand's hand, though UNESCO has said that its decision has no bearing on overlapping land claims.

Earlier this month, Thailand's Constitutional Court ruled that the government was wrong when it signed a joint communiqué with Cambodia on the issue without consulting parliament. Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama later resigned.

Behind the rhetoric is a grinding war of attrition between Mr. Samak and his enemies, whose ongoing street protests are a repeat of events in 2006 that paralyzed Thailand, before former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted in a coup. Samak is an ally of Mr. Thaksin, who is barred from politics but continues to loom over public life here.

Critics allege that Thaksin is cutting business deals in Cambodia and that his friends in government are smoothing his path. "This is a very sensitive issue on both sides of the border.

The [Thai] government should have informed the people from the beginning. The suspicion is that there are dealings under the table," says Kasit Piromya, a former Thai ambassador to Washington and opposition supporter.

For decades, Preah Vihear was off the map as visitors steered clear of war-torn Cambodia. But the surrender of Khmer Rouge troops in the 1990s paved a tourism boom in Cambodia focused on Angkor Wat, the vast temple complex that symbolizes the country's ancient glories. Cambodia hopes to repeat the trick with Preah Vihear.

Until this month, day trippers from Thailand could visit the temple, which sits atop a rocky escarpment that is much harder to ascend from Cambodia. Both countries benefited from this arrangement by levying fees on visitors, but Cambodia eventually plans to channel tourists from its side of the border, capitalizing on its UNESCO designation.

For now, there are no tourists, only soldiers hunkered down around the ruined temple.