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Crossing the line

Crossing the line

Heng Chivoan

Moeung Sonn, president the Khmer Civilization Foundation, holds up a

map showing the Cambodian-Thai border around Preah Vihear temple.

Officials on both sides of the line are calling for calm after an

apparent incursion by Thai soldiers into Cambodia near the disputed

11th-century World Heritage Site.

Senior Cambodian officials are calling for

calm a day after Thai soldiers crossed the border near Preah Vihear

temple amid a growing ownership row over territory surrounding the

11th-century Hindu ruins, which last week were designated a World

Heritage Site.

Nearly 600 Thai and Cambodian troops remain at a Buddhist pagoda on the

Cambodian side of the border, government spokesman Khieu Kanharith told

reporters Wednesday, adding however, that tensions had lowered since

the Thai troops first breached the border.

"We've called for both sides to be calm. There are no tanks or guns

pointed at each other," he said, adding that a joint committee had been

formed to resolve how the Thai soldiers should be withdrawn.

"We are not considering this a Thai military invasion because we want

to solve the situation peacefully," Khieu Kanharith said, explaining

that Prime Minister Hun Sen had ordered that no force be used against

the Thais.

The incident is the latest flare-up over Preah Vihear, which some Thais

claim belongs to Thailand, despite a 1962 ruling by the World Court in

favor of Cambodia's sovereignty.

The border around the temple, however, remains disputed, and Khieu

Kanharith said demarcation talks would be held after the Thai soldiers

had left Cambodian soil.

Thailand had repeatedly opposed Cambodia's efforts to have the temple

listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site until this year, when Preah

Vihear was successfully inscribed on July 7.

The designation sparked jubilant celebrations across Phnom Penh, but in

Thailand, bruised nationalism remains unappeased, and the government of

Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej is suffering from the fallout.

On July 10, Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama stepped down after

the Constitutional Court ruled that he had acted illegally in signing

an agreement supporting Cambodia’s bid to have Preah Vihear temple

listed as a World Heritage Site without the permission of parliament.

Thai nationalists have vowed to continue protesting over the temple, with some groups saying they would storm Preah Vihear.

Moeung Sonn, president of the Khmer Civilization Foundation, which was

established as the most recent tensions over the temple rose, demanded

that the Thai government compensate any villagers around the temple for

damage caused by Thai soldiers to their property.

He also called for the withdrawal of the Thai troops.

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