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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Cambodia rebukes Thailand

Cambodia rebukes Thailand

Minister Hor Namhong (left) gestures with repeated comments made by top Thai government officials over the complaint to withdraw Preah Vihear temple from World Heritage site. --PHOTO: AP

PHNOM PENH - CAMBODIA on Saturday rebuked Thailand for reopening a debate over an ancient temple on their disputed border that has led to seven soldiers being killed.

High-ranking Thai officials this week asked world heritage body Unesco to reconsider its decision to formally list the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, as ownership of land surrounding the ruins is still in dispute.

Soldiers from Cambodia and Thailand continue to patrol the area and occasional outbreaks of violence between them have triggered gunbattles that have killed seven troops in the past year.

But Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters that soldiers would be ready to defend their land again if necessary.

'Cambodia welcomes Thailand militarily, diplomatically, internationally or through peaceful negotiations,' Hor Namhong said.

'(But) it (border fighting) has happened twice... (so) if they want to send their troops to Cambodia a third time, we will welcome them too,' he said.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva made a one-day visit to Cambodia last week in an attempt to push forward border talks, but his subsequent comments only appear to have reignited the dispute.

'I heard that the second Thai commander on the border put his troops on alert and I'd like to tell them that Cambodian soldiers are also on alert,' Mr Hor Namhong added.

Cambodia and Thailand have been at loggerheads over the land around the Preah Vihear temple for decades, but tensions spilled over into violence last July when the temple was granted UN World Heritage status.

The border between the two countries has never been fully demarcated, in part because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia. -- AFP

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