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Police, army ready for PAD temple protest

FIFTY riot police officers and dogs have been deployed at the border close to Preah Vihear temple to ensure that a planned demonstration by Thai protesters this weekend does not infringe on Cambodian territory, police officials have said.

The yellow-shirted People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) has announced it will hold a rally at Preah Vihear temple Saturday, after filing a petition accusing the Thai government of negligence in allowing Cambodia to “encroach” on the 4.6-square-kilometre disputed area around the ruins.

“We hope that there will not be a problem if the Thai protesters rally on their own territory, and our riot police officers are just preparing in case any incident occurs,” Phnom Penh Municipal Police spokesman Kirt Chantha-rith said Wednesday. “We hope that the Thai authorities will do their job well and prevent the protesters from intruding on Cambodian territory.”

As preparations for the protest gathered pace, Ministry of Defence spokesman Chhum Socheat said that he had received a military report from the border alleging that Thais living near by were being offered 1,000 baht (US$29.69) to join the PAD rally.

The protest is an echo of similar demonstrations last year that triggered a yearlong military standoff at the border. Last July, three Thai demonstrators jumped over the border fence into Cambodian territory and were arrested by Cambodian border guards, triggering the Thai movement into disputed areas around the temple.

“There are some concerns that the Thai protests could lead to violence and reignite armed conflict between the Cambodian and Thai militaries,” said Koy Kuong, spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Bun Vanna, deputy chief of staff of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Brigade 8, which is stationed at the temple, said that border troops are ready to counterattack if there is an intrusion.

However, in the wake of August 24’s joint declaration marking an official end to hostilities at Preah Vihear, Thai officials have also pledged to prevent PAD protestors from jeopardising the current detente.

On Thursday, the Bangkok Post quoted Lieutenant General Wibulsak Neepan of the Thai army as saying Thai troops would be deployed from the Thai side to prevent the protesters from entering the disputed area.

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