PHNOM PENH, July 20 (Reuters) – Cambodia has complained to the U.N. Security Council about its military standoff with Thailand over an ancient temple on their disputed border.
Hundreds of Thai and Cambodian troops faced each other at the Preah Vihear temple for a sixth day on Sunday, a standoff that some fear could turn violent.
In a letter sent to council members on Friday and released to the media on Sunday, Cambodia’s U.N. ambassador, Sea Kosal, said Thai troops had been occupying Cambodian territory about 300 metres from the 900-year-old temple since last Tuesday.
The temple, perched on a jungle-clad escarpment that forms a natural boundary between the two nations, has been a source of tension since the International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that it belonged to Cambodia, a decision that still angers Thais.
At the heart of the current dispute is a 4.6 sq km (1.8 sq mile) area around the temple that is claimed by both sides.
“While Cambodia exercises maximum restraint to avoid armed confrontation, we cannot ignore that Thai military provocation is to create a de facto “overlapping area” that legally does not exist on Cambodia soil,” Sea Kosal said.
Thai troops moved into the disputed area last Tuesday after three Thai protesters were detained by Cambodian soldiers as they tried to plant a Thai flag on the temple.
The two defence ministers will meet in Thailand on Monday to try to end the impasse, which has revived memories of a 2003 spat over another Cambodian temple, Angkor Wat, which saw a nationalist mob setting fire to the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh.
Preah Vihear’s listing as a World Heritage site this month triggered a political uproar in Bangkok, where the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) accused the government of selling out Thailand’s history by initially backing the listing.
The PAD, a coalition of activists and royalists, is waging a street campaign against Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, whom they accuse of being a proxy of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a coup in 2006.
(Reporting by Ek Madra; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Mariam Karouny)