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Thailand calls for talks, but Cambodia not optimistic ខែកក្កដា 22, 2008

Posted by សុភ័ក្ត្រ in News.
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PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (AFP) — Thailand said Sunday that a military standoff with Phnom Penh over disputed land should be resolved through negotiations, but a top Cambodian general said he had little faith in talks.

More than 500 Thai troops and well over 1,000 Cambodian soldiers are stationed around a small Buddhist pagoda on the slope of a mountain leading to the ruins of the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple.

Top defence officials plan to meet Monday in a bid to resolve the crisis, which comes amid political tensions in both countries, and only weeks after the temple was granted World Heritage status by the UN cultural agency UNESCO.

In his weekly television address, Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said it would take time to resolve the dispute, but the commander of Cambodian forces in the disputed area said ongoing talks were fruitless.

“We have very little hope about the negotiations,” Brigadier Chea Keo said on day six of the confrontation.

“We have only a little hope because the new Thai government has written a letter to our prime minister saying that the land they are stationed on belongs to them,” he told reporters.

“We’re on high alert,” he added.

The dispute began after three Thai protesters were arrested on Tuesday for jumping a fence to reach the temple.

The standoff nearly erupted into violence late Thursday, when witnesses said troops pointed their guns at each other at the pagoda after 50 Cambodian troops entered the compound to protect food supplies for dozens of monks.

Samak said that it would take time and effort to defuse the standoff.

“The situation at no man’s land needs negotiation,” Samak said Sunday in his weekly address. “It has to be step-by-step … They claim the area belongs to them. We claim it belongs to us.”

Cambodia has sent letters about the standoff to the United Nations, government spokesman Khieu Kanharith told AFP.

“Cambodia’s permanent mission at the United Nations has sent two letters — one to the Security Council and another one to the chief of the UN General Assembly in order to draw attention about the situation,” he said.

“After the Monday negotiations, we will decide what is the next step.”

Cambodia’s opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) on Sunday called for the government to withdraw its ambassador from Thailand and refuse to negotiate with their neighbours “as long as the Thai army remains on Cambodian territory”.

“The only choice for Cambodia is no negotiation unless Thais withdraw their military,” SRP lawmaker Son Chhay told reporters.

The renewed tensions on the border between Thailand and Cambodia come amid heightened political situations in both countries.

Cambodia is preparing for general elections on July 27, during which 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 Samak — already the target of street protests against his months-old government — have stoked the temple controversy to fire up nationalist sentiment.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear belongs to Cambodia. But the most accessible entrance to the Khmer ruins lies in Thailand and 4.6 square kilometres (1.8 square miles) of the surrounding land remains in dispute.

ប្រភព៖ http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5hxJfoD1FhIylSlYlcBZuN-6oRCOw

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