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Talks fail to end Thai-Cambodia temple row ខែកក្កដា 22, 2008

Posted by សុភ័ក្ត្រ in News.
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By Nopporn Wong-Anan

 

ARANYAPRATHET, Thailand, July 21 (Reuters) – Talks between Thailand and Cambodia failed on Monday to end a week-long military stand-off over an ancient temple on their border, which regional neighbors feared could turn violent.

 

Hundreds of troops at the temple will hold their positions, negotiators said after eight hours of talks on an issue that has whipped up nationalist fervour in both southeast Asian nations.

 

“The best option is to stay where they are, but avoid using weapons,” Thai Supreme Commander Boonsrang Niumpradit told reporters.

 

Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh said: “It is impossible to find a solution at this second,” and his government later appealed to regional neighbors to help mediate.

 

The marathon talks took place in the Thai border town of Aranyaprathet, 380 km (235 miles) from the 11th century Preah Vihear temple awarded to Cambodia by an international court in 1962.

 

At the heart of the dispute is a 4.6 sq km (1.8 sq mile) area around the temple, which sits on a jungle-clad escarpment that forms a natural boundary and is claimed by both nations.

 

Monday’s talks partly bogged down over which maps should be used to settle ownership of the temple and surrounding area, officials said.

 

The military showdown began last Tuesday when Thai troops moved into the disputed area after three Thai protesters were briefly detained there. Since then, both sides have sent hundreds more soldiers and heavy artillery to the border.

 

After complaining to the United Nations on Friday that Thailand had violated its “sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Phnom Penh took its case to a southeast Asian security forum in Singapore.

 

Late on Monday it asked the 10-nation Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to form an Inter-Ministerial Group of foreign ministers from Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and Laos to “find a peaceful solution to the current crisis and to avoid a military confrontation between two ASEAN members.”

 

DANGEROUS ESCALATION

 

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement issued by his spokeswoman in New York he was “concerned about the current escalation of tensions between the two countries, including the buildup of troops.”

 

“(Ban) calls for restraint on both sides and hopes that this matter can be resolved peacefully,” the statement said.

 

The stand-off has revived memories of a 2003 spat over Cambodia’s famed Angkor Wat temple complex, which saw a mob set fire to the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, and worried neighbours.

 

In Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told the ASEAN meeting the situation had escalated dangerously on the Thai-Cambodian border and the group “could not stand idly by without damaging its credibility.”

 

Domestic politics in Thailand, where the temple is known as Khao Pra Viharn, have played a big role in fuelling the border fracas, analysts said.

 

Preah Vihear’s listing as a World Heritage site this month triggered a political uproar in Bangkok, where the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) accused the government of selling out Thailand’s history by initially backing the listing.

 

Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej’s government argued its support was only for the temple and would not affect Bangkok’s claims to the disputed land around Preah Vihear.

 

Neverthless, the PAD, a coalition of activists and royalists, has used the listing as a weapon in its campaign against Samak, whom they accuse of acting as a proxy for former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a coup in 2006.

 

Cambodian politicians, themselves no strangers to nationalism, have denounced the “Thai invaders” in the run-up to a general election next Sunday. (Additional reporting by Ek Madra in Phnom Penh, Melanie Lee in Singapore and Louis Charbonneau at the United Nations) (Writing by Darren Schuettler; editing by Robert Hart and Todd Eastham)

ប្រភព៖ http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/BKK258182.htm

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