Friday, 26 June 2009

Thailand, Cambodia spar again over disputed border

AP - Friday, June 26

BANGKOK – The Thai army put its troops on alert at the disputed border with Cambodia and said Thursday it would deploy more soldiers there, the latest sign that tensions are rising over a 11th century Hindu temple.

Trouble began in July when the United Nations cultural agency, UNESCO, approved Cambodia's bid to have the ancient Preah Vihear temple named a World Heritage Site, leading some in Thailand to believe their claims to the surrounding land would be undermined.

Several gun battles have killed at least seven Thai and Cambodian soldiers, and both sides have refused to back away from their positions, each saying it has the rightful claim to the land.

Thailand last week asked UNESCO to reconsider its decision to formally list the temple as a world heritage site under the care of Cambodia. That move irritated Cambodia and the two sides have traded angry words ever since.

Lt. Gen. Neepal Viboonsak said Thai troops were put on alert and more would be sent to the area in response to Cambodia's increasing forces and weaponry there.

"We urged that the troops exercise restraint and patience. We will not shoot unless we are shot at first," said Neepal. "But we will have to appropriately increase the number of troops because (the Cambodians) have deployed a lot more troops and heavy artillery there."

He declined to comment on the number of forces on either side, or how many more Thai soldiers would be deployed.

Prime Minister Hun Sen denied that Cambodia had sent more soldiers to the border and warned an encroachment by Thai soldiers will not be welcome.

"If the Thais enter, let's fight," he told reporters. "If Thai forces do not withdraw from the area, I will not order Cambodian forces to pull back either."

Cambodia and Thailand share a 500-mile (800-kilometer) land border, much of which has never been clearly demarcated because the countries refer to different maps.

The World Court awarded the Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia in 1962, but sovereignty over the surrounding land has never been clearly resolved.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban will visit Cambodia on Saturday to discuss the issue with Hun Sen.

1 comment:

Ben said...

That's sad that tensions are rising. When I was in Cambodia a number of years ago, there wasn't any open tension like that that I could see. Hopefully things will get better.