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Cambodia informs UN Security Council of alleged Thai incursion into its territory ខែកក្កដា 22, 2008

Posted by សុភ័ក្ត្រ in News.
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PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia: Cambodia has complained to the U.N. Security Council that Thai forces have violated its territory near an ancient World Heritage Site temple where hundreds of troops continued to face off Sunday.

Cambodia’s permanent mission in New York submitted a letter to the chairman of the Security Council and the chairman of the General Assembly to “draw their attention to the current situation on the Cambodian-Thai border,” Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said.

“Cambodia is not asking for U.N. intervention. We still stick to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s instructions to try to solve the problem peacefully between the two sides,” the minister told The Associated Press in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.

The conflict over territory surrounding Preah Vihear temple escalated when UNESCO recently approved Cambodia’s application to have the complex named a World Heritage Site. Thai activists fear the new status will undermine Thailand’s claim to nearby land.

The tension that began Tuesday is centered on the compound of a Buddhist pagoda near the Preah Vihear temple complex. Cambodia and Thailand have both laid claims to the compound.

In his letter to the Security Council on Friday, Cambodia’s U.N. Ambassador Sea Kosal said the provocative act by Thai troops was aimed at creating “a de facto overlapping area that legally does not exist on Cambodian soil.” A copy of the letter was obtained by The Associated Press on Sunday.

Based on estimates of commanders and Associated Press reporters on both sides of the frontier, more than 4,000 troops have been deployed around the temple and in the immediate border region.

The forces were on the brink of a shoot-out Thursday night, which was avoided when Cambodians retreated from the pagoda compound occupied by the Thais.

Opposing commanders and their troops have tried to defuse tensions, sometimes even sharing meals, snapping photographs and sleeping within easy sight of one another.

A Cambodian general, meanwhile, said he had little hope that upcoming talks between his government and Thailand will resolve the matter.

Cambodian Brig. Gen. Chea Keo said Thai troops have deployed artillery about half a mile northeast of Preah Vihear temple — the latest escalation ahead of Monday’s meeting aimed at averting a military confrontation.

“Regarding the talks tomorrow, we have little hope about the outcome,” Chea Keo said.

He said the reason for his pessimism stems from a recent counterclaim by Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej that the area around a Buddhist pagoda near the historic temple belongs to Thailand. Thai troops have been stationed at the pagoda since Tuesday.

Hun Sen wrote a letter to Samak on Thursday saying relations had been “worsening” since Thai troops “encroached on our territory,” and asked him to pull them back.

Responding to his Cambodian counterpart, Samak said the area around the pagoda referred to in the letter “is within the Thai territory,” according to a statement Saturday from the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

While urging both sides to exercise restraint, Samak’s letter said the settlement of Cambodians in that area constitutes “a continued violation of Thailand’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Despite their pledge to hold talks Monday in Thailand to try to defuse the tensions, both Cambodia and Thailand have massed troops at the site.

Maj. Gen. Weewalit Jornsamrit, a senior Thai commander at the border, said an estimated 1,300 Cambodian troops were deployed in and around Preah Vihear. Associated Press reporters estimated the number to be at least 1,100 based on interviews with local commanders.

Weewalit declined to give Thai troop numbers but a senior Thai officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive situation, said about 2,600 soldiers were in the Thai district opposite the border. Around 400 were seen in the disputed area.

“We continue to be on alert at all time. And at the same time, we keep instructing our soldiers to be patient and avoid being blamed for starting a war,” Chea Keo said Sunday.

The dispute has taken a toll on tourism in the area, with the Thai side closed to visitors. It also is starting to hurt economic relations between the two neighbors.

ប្រភព៖ http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/07/20/news/Cambodia-Temple-Dispute.php

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