Heng Sinith/AP
Cambodian villagers pray to stone naga heads at Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear
province, Cambodia. (AP)

Fighting Ends as Thailand, Cambodia Agree to Share Border Patrol

October 16, 2008 01:26 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Military commanders from both nations will patrol disputed land near the ancient Preah Vihear temple, where gunfire broke out earlier this month.

Nations Hope to Prevent Further Violence

“We are confident that the joint patrol in the disputed area will prevent the repeat of that incident,” said Lieutenant General Wiboonsak Neeparn, the army commander for northeastern Thailand. “Without proper communication and talks, it led to a small clash.”

But troops will remain at their current levels in the disputed area, the 1.8 square miles near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple in Cambodia, which was recently named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Cambodian defense minister Tea Banh called the decision “a good result.”

“We understood each other,” Tea Banh said to AFP. “We cannot patrol individually because it could lead to a misunderstanding.”

Earlier this month, gunfire broke out at the border when tensions between Thai and Cambodian soldier escalated, resulting in the deaths of two Cambodian soldiers, several injuries on both sides and the imprisonment of 10 Thai soldiers.

The head of UNESCO expressed his “grave concern” about the dispute, according to the UN news agency. The Preah Vihear temple was recognized by the agency in July for its “exceptional universal value.”

Background: Thailand, Cambodia fight over ancient temple

In July, senior Thai and Cambodian government officials were trying to negotiate a standoff, Thailand's Supreme Commander Boonsrang Niumpradit told Reuters, as hundreds of troops faced off over the land dispute triggered by the UN's recognition of the Preah Vihear temple.

Cambodian officials said that about 200 Thai soldiers had crossed the Thai-Cambodian border. Thailand's military action followed the detainment of three Thai activists who tried to plant a Thai flag on the temple site.

Thais had been protesting the UN's recognition of the site, saying that land near the temple located close by the Thai-Cambodian border, is "disputed territory," while Cambodian officials said Thai troops were occupying their land.
Earlier, protesters in Thailand led by the opposition party People's Alliance for Democracy had filed impeachment proceedings against their government over the temple issue. The protestors had been demonstrating for months against Thai Prime Minister Samak Sudaravej, whom they accused of being a proxy for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Although a ruling by the International Court of Justice gave Cambodians ownership in 1962, the 11th-century temple has been an ongoing source of tension.

Kenneth T. So said that he was "incensed"
that Thailand was protesting a decision made 46 years ago. "As history has recorded, the ICJ sided with Cambodia and recognized that Preah Vihear was located within Cambodia. Thailand had accepted the ICJ decision," So said in a letter to the Phnom Penh Post.

Bangkok Post reader P Que commented that "it is interesting to see the nationalist hysteria being evoked over the listing of the Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site, an action which has no effect on the existing border demarcation between Cambodia and Thailand, and which so far has not caused any injuries or deaths."

UNESCO added Preah Vihear to its list of World Heritage Sites in July month during a meeting in Quebec City, Canada.

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