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Troops at two more temples

Troops at two more temples

Tempers flare over Thai move on additional disputed sites

Heng Chivoan

Khmer soldiers squat at roadside, 100 metres south of the Preah Vihear temple.

CAMBODIA is demanding the removal of Thai troops from two more Cambodian temples in a sign the Preah Vihear dispute is still a long way from resolution.

The latest flare-up focuses on two small temples about 600 metres apart, perched on the ridge of the Dangrek Mountain.

One, Ta Moan Thom, is located on the Cambodian side of the border and was - until the Thais moved in on July 27  - under Cambodian control. The other, Ta Moan Touch, has been under Thai control since 2001, although remains on Cambodian land, officials maintain.

"The two temples are in Cambodian territory," Var Kimhong, chairman of Joint Border Committee (JBC), said on Monday.

On Sunday, over 500 Cambodian soldiers from Brigade 42 were deployed to Ta Moan Thom.

"Our armed forces were sent to the temple  but Thai soldiers blocked access," said Pov Heng, deputy commander of Military Region 4.

 "We are negotiating with Thai side first before we advance on the temple because we do not want fire fights to erupt," Pov Heng added.

"It is another invasion," Phay Siphan, Council of Ministers spokesperson, told the Post, referring to the Thai troops's  July 27 occupation of Ta Moan Thom.

High-level meetings between the neighboring countries' respective Ministries of Foreign Affairs will be convened again next week, he added.

Ho Bunthy, deputy commander of Border Military Unit 42, told the Post Monday, "We are waiting for orders to go into the temple and reclaim it." 

Thailand renovated Ta Moan Touch and seized control of it in 2001, and was trying to renovate Ta Moan Thom.

The JBC intervened to stop the work as the border demarcation process in the area was not complete, Var Kimhong said.

Although he conceded that Thailand had governed Ta Moan Touch for years, he said the temple was still Cambodian and when the border demarcation was completed it would be returned to Cambodia.

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