Employees of local NGO Heritage Watch document the ancient temple in Preah Vihear near the Thai-Cambodian border, in this undated file photo.
The government on April 11 denied Thai allegations it was overstepping its boundaries at the long-disputed Preah Vihear temple that straddles the Thai-Cambodian border, in the latest bout of political jostling that has for years has prevented Cambodia from listing the ancient Hindu temple as a UNESCO world heritage site.
Although the International Court of Justice at The Hague ruled in 1962 that the temple belongs to Cambodia, the actual boundary line in the district remains unclear and the 4.6-square-kilometer area surrounding the temple is claimed by both countries.
Thailand sparked off the latest series of exchanges on April 11 when it summoned the Cambodian Ambassador to Thailand, Ung Sean, and claimed Cambodia had dispatched troops to the contested area over a month ago. This would violate a memorandum of understanding signed in 2000 by both parties which bars them from making any changes in the area before the border can be demarcated.
Ouch Borith, Secretary of State at the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters the only armed forces deployed in the area were there to maintain the temple and provide security for visiting tourists.
“There is no confusion about the border and no overlapping area with Thailand’s territory in Preah Vihear,” Borith said. “The border was clearly mapped out in the Hague’s decision which was recognized by the international community.”
Thailand has lodged complaints before; in 2004 over the building of a road, in 2005 over the setting up of official outposts and a community, and in 2007 over the issuing of a decree to claim the area so it can be registered as a World Heritage Site.
This time, they requested Phnom Penh withdraw its armed forces and leave the area vacant until the completion of demarcation – expected in about 10 years.
Cambodia is trying to demarcate the border area itself, which requires finding 73 old markers that once signaled the border line. Since 2006, they have found 20.