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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Officials reject Thai border market claim

Officials reject Thai border market claim

Government disputes Thai argument that planned market reconstruction violates bilateral agreements.

CAMBODIAN officials have rejected Thai government claims that the reconstruction of a market at the foot of Preah Vihear temple violates a border agreement signed by the two countries, saying the project has nothing to do with the continuing standoff over contested territory.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said that the reconstruction of the market - which Cambodia says was destroyed by Thai rocket fire during border clashes in April - was merely intended to provide housing to 319 vendor families made homeless by the incident.

"Thailand's claims are groundless," he said Monday.

"They are only trying to disturb Cambodia."

On Thursday, Thailand's border communication office wrote to its Cambodian counterpart, claiming that the construction of new stalls at the market violated a memorandum of understanding on border demarcation signed between the two countries in 2000.

"The border communication team of Region 1 would like to inform you that the above action is in violation of the joint MoU on inspection and border demarcation," the letter stated.

Cambodia and Thailand have never fully demarcated their 805-kilometre shared border.

Under construction
Sar Thavy, Preah Vihear deputy governor and a member of the market construction commission, said Monday that several stalls had already been rebuilt, and that the all construction activities were taking place on Cambodian soil.

"We have to rebuild those stalls because [the market] has been on that site for many years," he said.

"If Thailand complains about our reconstruction, it is their problem."

He added that construction workers were hurriedly building stands in an attempt to finish the project as soon as possible.

In May, Cambodia officially requested US$2.1 million in compensation for the damage at the market, but so far there has been no response from Bangkok.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said that Thailand had not yet sent a formal diplomatic note protesting the reconstruction, but added that Foreign Minister Hor Namhong was set to leave for Bangkok today for a meeting of the Joint Border Commission, set up to negotiate border issues.

Var Kimhong, Cambodia's top border negotiator, could not be reached for comment Monday.



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