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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ..."and we're not helping anyone," says Thailand

..."and we're not helping anyone," says Thailand

P HA MOR-IDAENG, THAILAND - Thailand is spending big on developing this

mountainous area as a tourist resort, with spectacular views of Preah vihear

temple just three kilometers away on the Cambodian side of the border.

Thai officials continue to insist that the Khmer Rouge inside the temple must

somehow get their supplies up the cliff-face from Cambodia.

However,

food, fuel and maybe ammunition too, comes from the more geographically friendly

Thai side.

Sisaket lawyer Suphan Sakhon reckons that "water is no problem

because there is a well beside the temple." Sakhon, who knows the area well,

says "food is sold to them by neighboring Thai villagers."

Sisaket

governor Jiroj Chotipandha is in charge of carrying instructions from Bangkok to

the governors of the seven Thai provinces bordering Cambodia to crack down on

border trade with the Khmer Rouge. In early January he has issued a formal

warning to all traders to stop their business operations with the Khmer

Rouge.

Opposite Sisaket the governor claimed "all the checkpoints on the

Cambodia side are under Khmer Rouge control."

Although cross-border trade

has been curbed by Bangkok orders, Sakhon said that business between the KR and

Thai still continues.

Chotipandha said: "The Khmer Rouge can climb up

from the Cambodian side" when asked how they maintain their

supplies.

However, a Thai ranger on border duty at Pha Mor Idaeng said he

had never seen supplies coming up to the temple.

Chotipandha said that

additional Thai troops had been sent to the border in response to recent

fighting near Pra Phalai base. "We have soldiers everywhere along the border;

even volunteer forces, so there is no way that any Khmer can pass into

Thailand."

Presumably there was also "no way" in which the Khmer Rouge

could get fresh supplies to the 10th - century temple without the many Thai

troops stationed at the border knowing about it.

High-ranking Defense

Ministry sources in Phnom Penh claim to have intelligence reports about trucks

having recently visited Preah Vihear Temple under cover of darkness.

The

Khmer Rouge captured the temple after their failure to disrupt the UN-monitored

elections in May 1993. At the time the Royal Cambodian government accused the

Thai military of permitting the Khmer Rouge to use Thai territory to launch

their attack on a small unit of RCAF soldiers guarding Preah Vihear.

A

State Department analyst who requested anonymity confirmed the Cambodian

claim.

Recent RCAF advances against the Khmer Rouge have drawn several

blasts from the Thai military command regional headquarters in Surin. The Nation

in Bangkok reported a Thai military spokesman saying that shells had been

deliberately fired into Thai territory, and Cambodian forces want to drag

Thailand into their conflict with the Khmer Rouge. Officially, the Thai army

have adopted a neutral stance.

While Thailand has been vociferous in its

response to the slightest threat to its sovereignty posed by Cambodian

government offensives against the Khmer Rouge, there is no record of the Thai

being angered over Khmer Rouge incursions into Thai territory, either at Preah

Vihear or CT-1.

At CT-1, a border point north of Choam Kasan in Thailand,

KR soldiers detained some UNTAC military observers in August 1993.

The

Cambodian Foreign Ministry has always expressed skepticism about the real

implication of "Thai neutrality" especially in the case of historical Thai

interest in claiming the temple.

Preah Vihear has always beenthe source

of bitter controversy and rival claims between the two countries. Prince Norodom

Sihanouk submitted a case for international arbitration at the international

court in The Hague in the 1960s. To the immense disgust of the Thai military

regime of the day the count decided in favor of Cambodia.

Many Thai

people still harbor resentment over the verdict of the word court, and they

would not have been displeased by the Cambodian government being dispossessed by

Ta Mok's forces.

Chotipandha admitted: "I don't feel anything about the

temple. Thailand does not think about it anymore." It is clear that Thai

authorities and the military are in no rush to see the controversial temple back

in Cambodian government hands.

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