>UN intervention sought for Preah Vihear standoff


A Thai soldier guards a Cambodian Buddhist temple near Preah Vihear temple, Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Thursday, July 17, 2008. Cambodia and Thailand escalated their troop buildup Thursday at disputed territory near the historic Preah Vihear border temple despite moves to hold talks next week to defuse the flare-up in tensions, a Cambodian general said.

(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

By Touch Yuthea

The Mekong Times

The deployment of Thai troops around a disputed area at the Preah Vihear temple has drawn criticism from civil society, with many calling for intervention from the UN.

Khmer Civilization Foundation President Moeung Son said yesterday that while he supports the government’s attempts to maintain calm over the situation, the Thai government must pay for any damage incurred to the temple and its grounds.
“The government must be responsible for any damage to Preah Vihear temple or antiques in the temple or around the temple while their troops occupy it,” he said, appealing for the troops to be withdrawn.
He appealed to UNESCO country members and the UN to help ensure no Cambodians are affected by the dispute, and asked the Cambodian government to send experts to the area to inspect any damage to the temple.
Cambodia Watchdog Council International (CWCI) issued a statement yesterday strongly condemning the alleged incursion.
“This act is an illegal violation of Cambodian territorial integrity, it is degrading to Cambodia and is a deed that cannot be forgiven,” said the CWCI.
“These soldiers must withdraw from Cambodian territory immediately and the Thai government must publicly apologize to Cambodia for violating its territorial integrity,” CWCI emphasized.
CWCI appealed to the Cambodian government to cancel the agreements made recently with Thailand concerning the temple, and to follow the 1962 ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ or World Court) in The Hague, which awarded the temple to Cambodia.
Sok Sam Oeun, director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said: “Preah Vihear temple has been listed as a World Heritage Site. If anyone violates the temple, it is the responsibility of the UN to intervene.”
“The definition of invasion, is entering another nation’s land intentionally, and [Thai soldiers] have entered with weapons,’’ he said, though he added that he was not sure if the incursion could be classed as an ‘invasion’.
“We have to examine the evidence. But if the [Thai soldiers] pull back peacefully without using military force, we cannot consider an invasion,” he stressed.
Kek Galabru, executive director of local human rights group Licadho, said she would like the Cambodian government to lodge a complaint with the UN over the incident “because in 1962 the ICJ ruled that Preah Vihear temple belongs to Cambodia, and UNESCO has agreed to list the temple as a World Heritage Site.”
“Why did Thai troops enter our country?” she asked.
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