Thai-Cambodia Conflict: Back to Bilateral Discussions

Updated On: Jul 28, 2008

Thailand and Cambodia are to hold talks on Mon 27 July in Cambodia to try to defuse an escalating row over joint claims to land adjoining the Preah Vihar temple on their border.

This represents a climb down for Cambodia which had tried to raise the issue for ASEAN and the UN to mediate. ASEAN however had asked for continued bilateral negotiations. Most UN Security Council members too felt the issue was not ripe for discussion.

The Preah Vihear temple dates from the 11th-century and is built on a 525-metre- high cliff on the Dongrak mountain range that defines the Thai-Cambodian border. It has been disputed for decades.

In 1962, the International Court of Justice awarded the temple itself to Cambodia but the court stopped short of defining the border in the area. Thailand claims that a 4.6-square-kilometre plot of land adjoining the temple is still disputed.

The ancient spat got a fresh start earlier this month when UNESCO agreed to list Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site with a 4.6 square kilometres of disputed territory. Thailand’s Foreign Minister Noppadon, first backed the Cambodian proposal and then reversed his position, and was forced to resign after criticism in Parliament, the court and in public.

The spat escalated from a diplomatic row to a potential military conflict last week, when three Thais were detained for entering the disputed temple territory.

A bilateral meeting Monday between Cambodian Defence Minister Teah Banh and General Boonsrang Niempradit, supreme commander of the Thai Army, in Sa Kaeo province, Thailand, 270 kilometres east of Bangkok, failed to find a quick fix to the joint claims on the temple's surrounding area.

The border spat has come at a sensitive time politically for both Cambodia and Thailand. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen faces a parliamentary election Sunday, and Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej is under mounting pressure to resign, in part over his government's alleged mishandling of the Preah Vihear affair.

Source: Bangkok Post 25 July, Thailand and Cambodia to meet on border temple row, http://www.bangkokpost.com/topstories/topstories.php?id=129076

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