Monday, 12 October 2009

Cambodia-Thailand seek arbitration in land dispute

(Post by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Cambodia said Monday it will ask Southeast Asian leaders at an upcoming summit to help resolve a heated border dispute with Thailand that has sparked gun battles, protests and fears of a cross-border war.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said in a statement he backed a proposal by his Thai counterpart that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations set up an arbitration body to help resolve dueling claims to land near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple.

ASEAN leaders meet Oct. 23-25 in Thailand for the 10-nation bloc's annual summit.

Preah Vihear temple sits on a cliff in a disputed border zone between Thailand and Cambodia. It has been a source of tension and fueled nationalist sentiment on both sides of the border for decades.

Last year, UNESCO backed Cambodia's bid to list the temple as a world heritage site. Thailand initially supported the bid but then reneged after the move sparked outrage and protests. Some Thais worried that the distinction would undermine their claims to surrounding land.

Both sides rushed troops to the border, which resulted in several small gun battles and briefly sparked concerns of war.

In 1962, the World Court awarded the temple to Cambodia, but sovereignty over adjacent areas has never been clearly resolved.

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen warned last month that anyone who illegally enters Cambodian territory near the temple will be shot.

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said last week that he would seek approval at the ASEAN summit for the establishment of a neutral organization to settle disputes among members.

"This may provide an avenue for Thailand and Cambodia to settle the (Preah Vihear) dispute," he said.

Hor Namhong responded Monday, saying the issue is one of regional concern.

"I would like to propose that the dispute between Cambodia and Thailand in the area of the temple of Preah Vihear be included in the agenda of the ASEAN summit," he said in a statement sent to Kasit.

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

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