>Cambodia closes Thai border entrance to disputed ancient temple

>Thai people protesting in front of gate to Preah Vihear temple.

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodia shut a border gate leading from Thailand to an 11th-century temple claimed by both nations, an official said Tuesday, as Thai protesters gathered outside and opposition politicians in Thailand’s Parliament accused the prime minister of yielding sovereignty over the site.
The closure of the border crossing at the Preah Vihear temple was the latest flare-up in a long-standing dispute between Cambodia and Thailand over ownership of the area.
Preah Vihear is located on the top of a cliff in the Dangrek Mountains, about 150 miles (245 kilometers) north of the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. However, it is more easily accessible from Thailand than from Cambodia.
The two countries have been at loggerheads over ownership of the temple, located in still-disputed territory, although it was awarded to Cambodia by the International Court of Justice in 1962.
The latest conflict arose last week when Thailand’s government endorsed Cambodia’s bid to register the temple as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Critics in Thailand say Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej bypassed Parliament when his government endorsed Cambodia’s application and accused him of violating national sovereignty. They say Thailand and Cambodia should apply jointly for World Heritage status for the site.
Thai opposition lawmakers debating a wide-ranging no-confidence motion against Samak have made the temple dispute a prominent part of their accusations.
Abhisit Vejjajiva, head of the opposition Democrat Party, said he intends to prove to Parliament that the government “caused damage to the country” by supporting Cambodia’s bid.
“Preah Vihear is the knockout punch” for the no-confidence motion, Abhisit told reporters.
Hundreds of Thai protesters gathered Sunday along the border near the entrance to the temple, shouting that the temple belongs to Thailand and telling Cambodians who live on the hill to move away, said Hang Soth, director-general of the Preah Vihear Authority. Smaller protests were held Monday and Tuesday.
“We decided to shut down the border entrance because we are afraid that Thai demonstrators will reach the temple and cause problems with our people who live the near the temple,” Hang Soth said.
Authorities will consider reopening the entrance “when the situation becomes normal and Thai demonstrators stop protesting in front of the temple,” he said.
The 21-nation World Heritage Committee plans to consider Cambodia’s application during its annual meeting next month in Quebec, Canada, he said.
The World Heritage list currently includes Cambodia’s Angkor archaeological site, where Angkor Wat, the country’s main tourist attraction, is located. World Heritage status helps attract funds for preservation of a site as well as raising its tourism profile.
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