Sunday, 28 June 2009

Tension rises near border; CAMBODIA DEPLOYS COMMANDOS

ON GUARD: Cambodian soldiers standing guard near the Preah Vihear temple.

Bangkok Post
Published: 28/06/2009

Cambodia has reportedly deployed 500 commandos to guard the Preah Vihear temple and disputed border area even though Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban claimed success over the issue in his visit to Phnom Penh.

The deployment of the corps from the 911 Para-Commando Battalion comes after Mr Suthep made a one-day visit to Phnom Penh yesterday in a bid to ease tension on the border.

The renewed tension follows Thailand's decision to ask for a review of Cambodia's unilateral listing of the Preah Vihear temple with Unesco.

The commandos have been put under the direct supervision of Lt Gen Him Bunhieng, a close aide of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who gave a warm welcome to Mr Suthep at his residence yesterday. Former Khmer Rouge soldiers have also been reportedly deployed at military bases along the border, said a source.

It is estimated that about 2,000 Cambodian soldiers are deployed in the disputed territories.

The source said there has been no reinforcement of troops or artillery on the Thai side, only routine troop rotations.

However, the source added that Thai troops have been put on 24-hour alert and are ready to carry out operations.

After returning to Thailand yesterday, Mr Suthep said both countries agreed to reduce the military stand-off near the temple.

"Prime Minister Hun Sen asked me to convey the message to Prime Minister Abhisit [Vejjajiva] and the Thai people that Cambodia will try to reduce tensions to facilitate economic cooperation between the two countries.

"We should let bygones be bygones, forget the nightmare of the past and look forward to a positive future for both countries," he said.

Originally, Mr Suthep was to clarify Thailand's opposition to the listing, but he had a change of plan after Mr Hun Sen refused to discuss the issue.

Meanwhile, para rubber farmers are still allowed to enter Khao Phra Viharn National Park to look after their plantations, even though the park remains closed to tourists.

However, they have been asked to register and leave their identification cards with security forces and are allowed inside between 7am and 4pm.

Former foreign minister Noppadon Pattama said he doubted Mr Suthep would get any results from the visit.

Citing Mr Hun Sen's strong refusal to discuss the temple listing, he said Thailand's decision to seek a review of the listing would be the last straw for Cambodia and steer the country to war.

He also noted that army commander Gen Anupong Paojinda must have felt uncomfortable with the government's move, saying the general agreed with the controversial Thai-Cambodian joint statement on the listing endorsed by the Samak administration.

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