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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Thai, Cambodian envoys set temple talks

Thai, Cambodian Envoys Set Temple Talks

SISAKET PROVINCE, Thailand (CNN) -- The foreign ministers of Thailand and Cambodia will meet Monday in an effort to resolve a weeklong military standoff over an ancient border temple that sits on disputed land, Thailand's prime minister said Thursday.

The meeting will take place in Siem Reap, Cambodia, on Monday -- a day after Cambodia's general election on Sunday, Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej told CNN.

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

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.

Sundaravej spoke to his Cambodian counterpart, Hun Sen, on Thursday to arrange next week's high-level meeting. He said Hun agreed to stop pursuing the issue at the U.N. Security Council. Cambodia had sent a letter to the council to call attention to the standoff.

The dispute is over an 11th-century temple to which Cambodia and Thailand both 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-kilometer) area around it was never fully demarcated.

Thailand says 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 -- places that the U.N. says have outstanding universal value.

The decision reignited 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.

Cambodian leader 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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