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‘Stonegate’ controversy unfolds

‘Stonegate’ controversy unfolds

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A sign erected yesterday near Preah Vihear temple, along the sensitive Thai-Cambodian border, that replaces a similar message that accused Thailand of invading Cambodian territory.

Cambodian troops have removed a stone tablet placed near Preah Vihear temple that accused Thailand of “invading” the Kingdom following requests from Thai officials, military sources said yesterday.

The stone in question was placed last month at Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvara, adjacent to the temple, and read: “Here! is the place where Thai troops invaded Cambodian territory on July 15, 2008, and withdrew at 10:30am on December 1, 2010.”

Tensions in the area first broke out in 2008 following the inscription of Preah Vihear as a UNESCO World Heritage site for Cambodia.

A Royal Cambodian Armed Forces official at the border who asked to remain anonymous said the offending sign, which had drawn criticism from senior Thai military commanders and Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva, had been replaced with a new one.

Whether the new sign will be received any more favourably remains to be seen. Thai officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

“Here! is Cambodia,” reads the sign erected yesterday.

“I heard [the placement of the sign] was ordered by Prime Minister Hun Sen,” the military official said.

RCAF division 3 commander Srey Doek, who is stationed near Preah Vihear temple, declined to comment.

Thai Lieutenant General Thawatchai Samutsakhon said this past weekend that Thailand “cannot accept” the invasion allegation listed on the old sign.

“If they don’t take it down, I may have a sign with a similar message erected,” Thawatchai told the Bangkok Post.

Abhisit said on Sunday that he had ordered military officials to contact Cambodia about removing the offending sign.

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