Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Thai-Cambodia dispute moves to ASEAN

Updated July 22,2008 at 3:00pm

(CNN) -- Cambodia and Thailand failed to resolve a weeklong military standoff over an ancient border temple that sits on disputed land.
Cambodian Buddhist monks walk at Preah Vihear temple on Monday.

An eight-hour meeting on Monday ended with both sides agreeing on only one point: that troops that each country has amassed at the site of the Preah Vihear temple will not fire on each other, the Thai News Agency reported.

Officials will reconvene after Cambodia's general election on July 27. For now, the countries are seeking regional intervention from their Southeast Asian neighbors.

Foreign ministers of the 10 countries that comprise the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are meeting in Singapore this week.

Cambodia has also sent a letter to the United Nations Security Council to call attention to the standoff.

At the heart of the dispute is an 11th century temple to which Cambodia and Thailand lay claim. It sits atop a cliff on Cambodian soil but has its most accessible entrance on the Thai side.

The International Court of Justice awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962. Thailand claims, however, that the 1.8 square mile (4.6 square km) area around it was never fully demarcated.

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Thailand further says that the dispute arose from the fact that the Cambodian government used a map drawn during the French occupation of Cambodia -- a map that places the temple and surrounding area in Cambodian territory.

This month, the United Nations approved Cambodia's application to have the temple listed as a World Heritage Site -- a designation U.N. gives to places it deems of outstanding universal value.

The decision re-ignited tensions, with some in Thailand fearing it will make it difficult for their country to lay claim to disputed land around the temple.

Opposition parties in Thailand used the issue to attack the government, which initially backed the heritage listing.

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has been in power since the mid-1980s, has portrayed the U.N. recognition as a national triumph in the run-up to the general elections.

The current flare-up began July 15, when Cambodian guards briefly detained three Thais who crossed into the area. Once they were let go, the three refused to leave the territory.

Cambodia claims Thailand sent troops to retrieve the trio and gradually built up their numbers. Thailand denies that, saying its troops are deployed in Thai territory.

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