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Waiting game

Waiting game

Vandy Rattana

Cambodian soldiers walk past razor wire that has been laid near Preah Vihear temple as a military standoff with Thailand continues.

Talks between Thai and Cambodian military leaders to end the standoff at Preah Vihear have deadlocked after the Thai side insisted on recognizing a different border between the two countries, Cambodian negotiators said.

The failure to reach a solution has forced Cambodia to seek an intervention from its regional neighbors, the foreign ministry said Tuesday, a day after military leaders walked away empty-handed from the negotiating table.

Thousands of troops and equipment, including heavy artillery, from both sides have been deployed to the border in the largest military build-up in years following last week's alleged incursion into Cambodia by Thai soldiers.

An area of 4.8 square kilometers around the temple remains in dispute after the World Court ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear belongs to Cambodia.

The issue escalated following Preah Vihear's July 7 listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's government coming under fire for supporting Cambodia's World Heritage bid amid accusations that Thailand's leaders were ceding territory to Cambodia.

Bangkok maintains that its troops are occupying Thai territory located a short distance from the 11th-century temple – a claim that has repeatedly been rejected by Cambodia.

"At first, everything in the meeting was going very well. But at the end, it failed because the Thai side raised the issue of its right to use its own map," said Bun Seng, commander of Cambodian Military Region 5, who attended the eight-hour talks Monday in the Thai-Cambodian border town of Aranyaprathet.

"We have different ideas on this point. We use the map drawn by France in 1904 and 1907, but the Thai side wants to use its own map. It's completely different," he told the Post on Tuesday.

"That is why when they raised the issue of the map, everything failed. I am very disappointed," he added.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith also confirmed that the talks had ended without resolution, but said that both sides agreed that the standoff would not escalate into armed conflict.

Cambodia's government called Tuesday on its regional neighbors to intervene in the issue, asking Asean chair Singapore to form an "inter-ministerial group" to mediate a solution to end the standoff, according to a statement from the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Asean leader had earlier urged both sides to exercise restraint as they continued to deploy troops to the area.

In Preah Vihear, the failure of the countries' military leader to resolve the crisis came as no surprise to many troops on the ground.

"I'm not surprised there has not been an agreement since so much has happened already," Vou Vinak, a 26 year-old Cambodian soldier, told the Post Monday night along what has become a de facto frontline near the temple.

Coils of razor wire have been laid in parts of the temple compound, while heavily armed Thai and Cambodian soldiers from who have gathered near a Buddhist pagoda that is claimed by both sides continued to eye each other warily.

"I'm very frustrated. I've been made to leave my family. Thailand made this problem by invading, so they should fix it," said another soldier, Sim Nara.

Bun Seng said talks are expected to continue, but nothing has yet been scheduled.

"We have tried hard for success, but then the Thai side made it [the meeting] fail. We will have further negotiations, but we do not know when," he said.

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