Thursday, 27 January 2011

Thai-Cambodian border tensions ease after plaque removed (Roundup)

via CAAI

Jan 27, 2011

Bangkok - Tensions eased along the Thai-Cambodian border Thursday after troops from both countries jointly destroyed a concrete plaque placed in a disputed area by Cambodian forces.

The red and gold plaque with the English inscription 'Here! Is Cambodia' had been erected at the weekend on orders from the Cambodian Foreign Ministry, Thai border forces quoted their Cambodian counterparts as saying.

It triggered a fresh wave of tension along the border with both sides reinforcing their troops near disputed land near the ancient Preah Vihear temple.

The temple on a high cliff on the border between Thailand's Si Sa Ket province and Cambodia's Preah Vihear province has been a bone of contention for more than a half-century.

In 1962, the International Court of Justice awarded the temple to Cambodia but did not rule on a nearby plot of land, also claimed by both countries.

Thai nationalist groups have revived the issue, accusing the Cambodians of border incursions.

Several thousand members of the Thai Patriots Network, the People's Alliance for Democracy and the Santi Asoke Dhamma Army have been camped out at Government House in Bangkok since Tuesday, demanding that the government take a tougher line against Cambodia and scrap a 2000 border agreement.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya criticized the protestors for mixing domestic politics with foreign affairs.

'My duty is to strengthen foreign relations, not to make war,' Kasit said.

Officers from Thailand and Cambodia agreed Wednesday that the plaque was a violation of previous border agreements and demolished it.

'The situation along the Thai-Cambodian border today is back to normal,' Thai army deputy spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Sirichan Ngathong said. 'There is no major movement of troops.'

Both countries had put their border forces on full alert this week, and Thailand announced it would conduct live-fire military exercises near the disputed border region.

Sirichan said the exercises had now been scaled back to a 'routine exercise' normally conducted February to April.

She confirmed that the plaque had been removed from the disputed area by Cambodian troops, and military authorities on both sides of the border now enjoy 'a good relationship.'

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