Saturday, 7 May 2011

Cambodia rejects Thai demands over temple troops

Cambodian soldiers gather in a military camp in Banteay Ampil district of Oddar Meanchey province, Cambodia (AP Photo/Xinhua, Sovannara)

via CAAI

Posted: 06 May 2011

JAKARTA: Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong on Friday rejected a Thai demand to withdraw troops from an 11th-century Khmer temple at the disputed border, saying Bangkok was not sincere about peace.

"We never can withdraw our troops from our own territory. That should be very clear," Hor Namhong told reporters after a meeting in Jakarta with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa.

The Indonesians are trying to broker a ceasefire and the deployment of neutral military observers to the flashpoint area on the Thai-Cambodia border where some 18 people have died in fighting in recent months.

The issue is likely to be discussed at a summit of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders in Jakarta starting on Saturday.

Both countries have accused each other of sparking the violence, which centres on territory surrounding the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, the most celebrated example of ancient Khmer architecture outside Cambodia's Angkor.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia but both countries claim ownership of a 4.6 square kilometre (1.8 square mile) surrounding area.

The temple was granted UN World Heritage status in 2008.

Cambodia has previously denied it has troops stationed at Preah Vihear itself, although it has soldiers in the contested area.

The neighbours agreed in late February to allow Indonesian observers near Preah Vihear, but Thailand has been dragging its heals on their deployment as fighting continues.

"The problem is the willingness of Thailand to accept the observers or not, that is the real problem," Hor Namhong said.

Indonesia holds the current chair of ASEAN and has been trying to use its position to broker an end to the hostilities, which are undermining ASEAN's ambitions to create a closely integrated community by 2015.

Natalegawa said Cambodia had agreed to the terms of the observer mission but Thailand was insisting on the withdrawal of Cambodia's troops from the temple.

"We're ready (to send observers) but Thailand is saying that before the deployment of observers can be made, they require the redeployment of Cambodian troops out of the temple," he said.

"This issue is not governed in the terms of reference. It's outside the terms of reference proper. This is where we are now."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for a ceasefire and said the neighbours should launch "serious dialogue" to resolve the dispute, which temporarily displaced about 85,000 people.

- AFP/cc

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