>UN Security Council mulls meet on Cambodian-Thai dispute

>Cambodian soldiers sit in front of a pagoda near the Preah Vihear temple

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — The Security Council is mulling whether to take up the tense military standoff between Cambodia and Thailand as the two neighbors massed more troops along their border, Vietnam’s UN ambassador said Wednesday.

“The council is considering the request (from Cambodia for a meeting),” Le Luong Minh, who chairs the 15-member body this month, told reporters.

But he said no decision had been made so far as to whether or when to meet.

More than 500 Thai troops and at least 1,000 Cambodian soldiers are squaring off over a small patch of land near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple.

Cambodian officials said Wednesday thousands more Thai troops were positioned along the border.

Cambodian cabinet spokesman Phay Siphan estimated about 4,000 Thai troops in total had gathered along the frontier in several areas — not just near Preah Vihear.

France’s UN Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert said council members held a preliminary discussion late Wednesday but added that the issue would be revisited Thursday as some delegations had no instructions from their capitals on how to proceed.

“We are worried about the situation,” he told reporters. “We think the council should meet as fast as possible” to deal seriously with this formal request from a member state.

Ripert said France backed a mediation by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which both Cambodia and Thailand are members.

But he made clear that the Security Council, as a guarantor of international peace and security, had “to assume its responsibility” to help reduce tension, given the risk of a deteriorating situation “with serious consequences”.

Earlier Wednesday, Cambodia said that it hoped the UN would help broker a solution to the standoff after the countries failed to make any headway in two days of talks over the disputed land near Preah Vihear.

But Thailand insists the two sides should settle the matter without an outside mediator.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear belongs to Cambodia. But the easiest entrance lies in Thailand.

Thailand and Cambodia both claim land near the temple, positioning their troops by a small Buddhist pagoda at the foot of the mountain leading to Preah Vihear.

The dispute erupted after three nationalist Thai protesters were arrested last week for jumping a barbed-wire fence to reach the temple, prompting armed troops to head to the border.

On July 8, the temple was added to UN cultural body UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

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