Saturday, 12 February 2011

ASEAN to discuss Thai-Cambodia skirmishes over shrine dispute

via CAAI

Jaishree Balasubramanian

Kuala Lumpur, Feb 12 (PTI) As tension continues to simmer on the Thailand and Cambodia border over a 11th century Hindu Shiva temple, a concerned Asean grouping has asked all its foreign ministers to meet for an urgent conclave to discuss the Preah Vihar shrine dispute.

The invitations to the foreign ministers have been sent by Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, the current Asean chair and the meeting is set to be held on February 22.

While Cambodia has sought an urgent Security Council meeting calling for a UN buffer force to be put in place, Thailand has said the dispute should be resolved bilaterally.

Meanwhile, Thailand has said that more than 20,000 soldiers will be deployed on the Thai-Cambodian border as part of a national defence plan and an incident action plan approved by the army commander, ''Bangkok Post'' quoted army sources as saying today.
The plan is to remain in effect till March 30.

The main entrance of the Shiva temple known as Preah Vihar is officially on the Cambodian side but most of the other parts of the temple spill over to the Thai side.

Officially the foreign ministers have been invited to discuss "regional and international issues," but the purpose of the meeting is clear, senior Asean officials told the Bangkok Post.

The Indonesian foreign minister has met both Cambodian and Thai foreign ministers so far.

He has said that Asean''s role is one that supports bilateral efforts to resolve the conflict.

Recent reports after the border clash a couple of weeks back had said that parts of the temple had been damaged in the recent skirmishes between the two neighbours after Cambodian troops used the shrine as a military base to fire on the Thai soldiers.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has sent a letter to the UN Security Council saying Thailand''s action during the clashes last week with Cambodia was appropriate and is in line with international principles.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged both the countries to come up with mechanisms to solve their disputes and end armed confrontation as soon as possible.
US has also called for Thailand and Cambodia to exercise restraint.

The construction of the first temple at the site began in the early 9th century and continued in the following centuries dedicated to Shiva in his manifestations as the mountain gods Sikharesvara and Bhadresvara, online reports said.

The earliest surviving parts of the temple dates from early 10th century, when the empire''s capital was at the city of that name.

In the wake of the decline of Hinduism in the region the site was converted to use by Buddhists.

In 1954, Thai forces occupied the temple following the withdrawal of French troops from Cambodia.

Cambodia protested and turned to the International Court of Justice which later ruled in 1962 that the shrine belonged to Cambodia.


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