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Report in New York Times || Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Sovereignty over the 11th century temple, Preah Vihear, has been disputed by Thailand and Cambodia since the withdrawal of the French in the 1950s. Although it is easily accessible only from the Thai side, the International Court of Justice awarded sovereignty over the temple to Cambodia in 1962.
On Oct. 15, 2008, Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged rocket and rifle fire for about an hour in a confrontation at their border over the temple. At least two Cambodian soldiers were killed, the Cambodian foreign minister said.
The most recent standoff between the two countries began in June when Unesco listed the temple as a World Heritage Site, acting on an application from Cambodia and using a map supplied by Cambodia.
The dispute has set off nationalist feelings in both countries that have also flared into local violence in the past.
Cambodia denies posting troops at temple
P. S. SURYANARAYANA || The Hindu ||SINGAPORE, February 9, 2011
Amid simmering tensions across the Thailand-Cambodia border, despite a lull in the latest artillery exchanges there, both countries have stepped up a war of words on the alleged militarisation of the mediaeval Temple of Preah Vihear that lies on the Cambodian side.
Thailand’s Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva demanded that Cambodia’s “practice of stationing military forces at the temple must end entirely.” The positioning of troops at the temple “is a clear violation of the objective” that influenced a U.N.-sponsored body to endorse the temple as a world heritage site a few years ago, said Mr. Abhisit.
Addressing the Thai National Security Council in Bangkok, he said the military flare-up was caused by Cambodia’s “attempts to submit a [temple] management plan [to UNESCO].” He also accused Phnom Penh of “internationalising the conflict” over the temple, which was awarded to Cambodia by the world court in 1962.
Rejecting the Thai version, Cambodia’s Foreign Ministry said “there have never been and there will never be Cambodian soldiers at the Temple of Preah Vihear.” The temple “has always been a place for worship and tourism,” said an official spokesman in Phnom Penh.
On the claims that the temple was being used as a heavy-arms base for targeting Thai soldiers who were operating at a lower altitude, Cambodia said the place of worship was being guarded by policemen armed with light weapons.
Responding to the suggestions from Thailand for bilateral talks on the issue, the Cambodian spokesman said on Wednesday “the issue is currently in the hands of the United Nations Security Council”. As the clashes broke out last week, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen quickly sought the Council’s intervention.
In a comment on the issue, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, however, urged both sides to end violence, exercise restraint and find a lasting solution through established mechanisms and procedures.
In a parallel development, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa held talks with Cambodian and Thai leaders to try and defuse the tensions. Indonesia chairs the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which includes all three countries.