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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cambodia rejects Thai ownership claim over temples

Cambodia rejects Thai ownership claim over temples

Cambodia rejects Thai ownership claim over temples

Flare-up over Ta Moan Thom and Ta Moan Touch ruins could complicate upcoming crisis talks over military standoff at Preah Vihear

Crossed lines

Ta Moan Thom temple and its smaller counterpart,

Ta Moan Touch, are ruins from the 13th-century located in Oddar Meanchey province. Both Cambodia and Thailand claim the temples, which are located in a disputed zone along the border.

CAMBODIA'S foreign ministry Tuesday rejected claims that any other country owned the Ta Moan Thom and Ta Moan Touch temples, two sets of ruins on the border with Thailand that have become the scene of another military standoff following the territorial dispute over land at Preah Vihear.

In a statement, the ministry outlined Cambodia's legal claim to the temples in Oddar Meanchey province, citing border demarcation documents from 1908 defining the frontier between Cambodia and Thailand.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs...therefore rejects any claim to the contrary to the legal rights of Cambodia," the ministry said.

Thai soldiers have occupied Ta Moan Touch on and off since 2001, but only recently deployed to Ta Moan Thom.

After a meeting last week between Thai and Cambodian officials, Thai soldiers withdrew from the temple, only to return over the weekend and seal the ruins off from Cambodia, reinforcing a small fence at the temple with wood and metal bars, according to military commanders in the area.

It is useless for the Thai side to

make a new border.

"Fifty of our soldiers were sent to the temple but they are not allowed to cross the gate," said Ho Bunthy, deputy commander of Border Military Unit 402.
"Our soldiers and the Thai soldiers are standing one metre from each other across the barbed wire," he told the Post.

The flare-up over the border threatens to complicate crisis talks between Cambodian and Thai foreign ministers on August 18 over the monthlong standoff at Preah Vihear.

"We will raise the issue of Preah Vihear and these two temples, along with border demarcation, at the foreign ministers's meeting next week," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Sin Bunthoeun.

"We want to confirm that both Ta Moan Thom and Ta Moan Touch are in Cambodian territory....They [the Thais] claim they belong to them based on a map they drew themselves."

Var Kimhong, chairman of the Joint Border Committee, alleged that Thai soldiers at Ta Moan Thom were placing fake border markers at the site to gain land illegally.

"It is useless for the Thai side to make a new border demarcation pole," he said. "They are  wasting cement trying to make fake border poles because everything along the border is documented."

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