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Thailand boosts forces on border in temple feud with Cambodia ខែកក្កដា 17, 2008

Posted by សុភ័ក្ត្រ in News.
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PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (AFP) — Thailand has boosted its military forces on disputed land at the Cambodian border, an army official said Wednesday, after two days of simmering tensions over an ancient Hindu temple.

Publicly, officials from both nations have called for talks to peacefully resolve the dispute over a 4.6-square-kilometre (1.8-square-mile) area near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple that is home to a small Cambodian village.

But Thailand’s army chief, General Anupong Paojinda, ordered 140 elite soldiers to the border to pressure Cambodia to the bargaining table, an army official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Thailand is angry that Cambodia has allowed its people to build a village in the disputed area, he said.

“The additional 140 troops will work in a temporary outpost to press Cambodian officials to bring the issue to Township Border Committee, so Thailand can push the Cambodian community out of the overlapping area,” the official said.

More than 250 Thai forces and 380 Cambodian soldiers were already stationed around a Buddhist pagoda in the disputed territory, located on the slope of a mountain leading to the ruins of the ancient Khmer temple.

Thailand’s air force chief Chalit Pukbhasuk told reporters that an F-16 fighter was conducting surveillance flights over the region.

“Which country does that disputed area belong to?” he said, expressing frustration at the standoff.

“Has Cambodia staged a de facto occupation of the area?”

Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said that his country was ready to hold talks, but did not say whether Phnom Penh would discuss border demarcation.

“We are ready to meet, and after that we will decide what to discuss. What we want to discuss is the presence of the two forces,” he told AFP.

In Bangkok, Anupong also urged talks.

“There should be negotiations between the two countries. The problem has been unaddressed for a long time because there has been no demarcation of the border yet,” he told reporters.

The standoff began after three Thai protesters crossed a Cambodian military barricade to try to reach Preah Vihear. Cambodia arrested them, but returned them to Thailand later in the day.

But following the arrest, dozens of Thai soldiers arrived at the Buddhist pagoda in the village in the disputed zone.

Both sides have slowly increased their troop presence, though no violence has broken out.

One Thai soldier was injured when he stepped on a landmine in the disputed zone, possibly a remnant from the decades of war that once plagued the border.

The incident comes amid heightened political tensions in both countries after the UN cultural agency UNESCO awarded the temple World Heritage status earlier this month.

Cambodia is preparing for general elections on July 27, when Prime Minister Hun Sen is expected to extend his decades-long grip on power.

He has portrayed the UN recognition of the ruins as a national triumph, organising huge public celebrations.

In Thailand, critics of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej — already the target of street protests — have stoked the temple controversy to fire up nationalist sentiment.

Samak’s government had originally signed a deal supporting Cambodia’s bid to make the ruins a World Heritage site, but a court overturned the pact, forcing the resignation of foreign minister Noppadon Pattama.

The parliamentary opposition is now mulling impeachment motions against the entire cabinet.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear belongs to Cambodia. The exact border around the ruins remains in dispute, with the main compound lying inside Cambodia but the most accessible entrance at the foot of a mountain in Thailand.

ប្រភព៖ http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5iwPlfdF1yOGukVFWDZ0hpoIEorlA

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