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Cyber-nationalists take Preah Vihear dispute to Wikipedia

Cyber-nationalists take Preah Vihear dispute to Wikipedia

As the border row drags on between Cambodia and Thailand, competing bloggers from both sides are taking their causes online

THE click of a mouse has become the newest weapon in the nationalistic battle over Preah Vihear temple, with Wikipedia - the popular, user-edited online encyclopedia - being bombarded by entries from Thais and Cambodians waging a propaganda tug-of-war.

Since the July 7 listing of the Preah Vihear temple as a UNESCO World Heritage site, hundreds of contributors have modified its entry, asserting their homeland's sovereignty over the ruins.

Ownership of the temple was given to Cambodia by the World Court in 1962, but many on the Thai side of the border have demanded a re-look at the issue.

Online, temple ownership can switch back-and-forth in a matter of minutes, Wikipedia's history shows.

The debate has focused on the temple's moniker - Prasat Preah Vihear, as transliterated from Khmer, or Prasat Khao Phra Viharn, as transliterated from Thai, giving birth to an entire chapter on the temple's nomenclature.

While the website's overseers are expected to rise above the fray and regulate bickering without censoring content disputes, site administrator Brian McNiel explained that both sides are digging up newspaper articles and government or court documents to bolster their arguments.

"The idealistic hope is that, over time, warring factions will find credible sources to back up their assertions, and the contested article will improve," McNiel told the Post.

Advocates have besieged other online forums as well, including the popular social network Facebook.com, where groups have attempted to mobilise support under banners such as "Prasat (Temple) Preah Vihear Belongs to Cambodia!!!" and "Preah Vihear Thailand's Territory."

Darts are flying through the blogosphere too, where emotional polemics frequently devolve into name-calling. Posts stray from the border dispute to broader historical grievances - with Cambodians recalling Thailand's harsh treatment of refugees fleeing the Khmer Rouge and Thais describing their neighbour as a long-time basket case.  

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