>FACTBOX-Disputes between Thailand and Cambodia

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Police and villagers block a convoy of nationalist protesters from reaching a disputed ancient temple on the country’s border with Cambodia, 700 km (435 miles) northeast of Bangkok July 17, 2008. A political uproar in Thailand over Cambodia’s listing of the Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site has been stoked by anti-government groups seeking to oust Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej’s shaky ruling coalition.

REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang (THAILAND)

July 17 (Reuters) – Thai police and angry villagers blocked nationalist Thai protesters on Thursday from reaching a disputed ancient temple on the country’s border with Cambodia.

The 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple has been a source of tension for decades since the International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that it belonged to Cambodia.

The latest flare-up was triggered by Bangkok’s support for the UNESCO heritage listing which anti-government groups said was tantamount to selling out Thailand’s heritage.

Here are some facts on relations and historical disputes between the two neighbours.

* Cultural links date back to at least the 9th century when Mon and Khmer people from south China migrated to the central plains and northern highlands of modern Thailand.

Cambodia’s ancient Khmer Empire, the dominant power at the time, ruled over modern Thailand from its Angkor Wat complex.

* Thai generals rebelled in the 13th century, triggering a series of wars. Angkor was attacked by Thai forces around 1431 and abandoned. For the next three centuries the Khmer state alternated between brief periods of independence and paying tribute to Thai and Vietnamese kings as a vassal state.

* In 1863, Thai-educated Cambodian King Norodom accepted the protection of France, which was then pushing into south Vietnam. Norodom ceded suzerainty, gaining the return of two northern provinces, Battambang and Siem Reap, that had been incorporated into Thailand. They were returned to Cambodia in 1907.

* France ruled Cambodia as a colony along with Laos and Vietnam, keeping relatively cordial relations with Thailand, until Phnom Penh gained independence by 1954. The 800-km (500 mile) Thai-Cambodia border, where Preah Vihear lies, was set by French colonial rulers.

The International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia, a decision that rankles with most Thais to this day.

* Simmering grievances have sometimes flared into violence. A Cambodian mob torched the Thai embassy and Thai businesses in Phnom Penh in 2003 after a false report in a Khmer newspaper quoted a Thai TV star as saying Angkor belonged to Thailand.

Sources: Reuters; A Political Chronology of South-East Asia and Oceania.
(Writing by Gillian Murdoch, Beijing Editorial Reference Unit; Editing by Darren Schuettler)

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