Sunday, 21 June 2009

Cambodia lashes out

Published: 21/06/2009

Phnom Penh - Cambodia rebuked Thailand on Saturday for reopening a debate over ancient Preah Vihear temple - and vowed it is ready to fight.

"Cambodia welcomes Thailand militarily, diplomatically, internationally or through peaceful negotiations," Hor Namhong said.

"It (border fighting) has happened twice... if they want to send their troops to Cambodia a third time, we will welcome them too," he said.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva made a one-day visit to Cambodia last week in an attempt to push forward border talks, but did not discuss the temple with his counterpart Hun Sen.

His subsequent comments only appear to have reignited the dispute.

"I heard that the second Thai commander on the border put his troops on alert and I'd like to tell them that Cambodian soldiers are also on alert," Mr Hor Namhong added.

Cambodia and Thailand have been at loggerheads over the land around the Preah Vihear temple for decades, but tensions spilled over into violence last July when the temple was granted UN World Heritage status.

Thailand intends to counter the UN declaration this week at the World Heritage meeting in Spain, with a proposal that the grounds of the temple be placed under joint Thai-Cambodian maintenance.

The 11th century Preah Vihear, atop a high and sheer cliff in Si Sa Ket province, is almost impossible to reach without going through Thai territory. Almost all visitors approach from the Thai side.

Soldiers from Cambodia and Thailand continue to patrol the area and occasional outbreaks of violence between them have triggered gunbattles that have killed seven troops in the past year.

The border between the two countries has never been fully demarcated. (AFP)

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