Thailand Calls for Talks with Cambodia on Temple Dispute

Posted July 19th, 2011 at 9:40 am (UTC-5)
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Departing Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is calling for dialogue with Cambodia to ease military tensions near the border site of a disputed temple, following a ruling from the United Nation's highest court that orders both sides to withdraw troops from the area.

Mr. Abhisit said Tuesday the talks are needed because, in his words, “it is impossible” for both sides to begin a pullback from the remote area simultaneously without talks. He also told Reuters television that Cambodia has some 4,000 troops at the flashpoint site, while Thailand has a smaller force in place.

In Phnom Penh, a Defense Ministry spokesman told VOA's Khmer service Tuesday that Cambodia will not consider withdrawing its troops until Indonesian peace monitors are in place. However, spokesman Phay Siphan said Cambodian forces have been ordered to keep a low profile until peacekeepers promised by the Jakarta government are in place.

Cambodia and Thailand argued their cases to the International Court of Justice in May, following nearly three months of military clashes near the 900-year-old Hindu-Khmer temple, called Preah Vihear (PREH-vee-HEAR) in Cambodia and Phra Viharn (PRAH WEE-hahn) in Thailand.

Nearly 30 people, including civilians, have been killed in the fighting.

Thailand acknowledges that the temple itself belongs to Cambodia, but Bangkok has long claimed much of the land surrounding the facility, including a key access road.

Tensions have mounted since 2008, when UNESCO listed the temple as a World heritage Site.