>Thailand, Cambodia trade claims over second disputed ruin

>Cambodian guards at Preah Vihear temple

BANGKOK (AFP) — Officials from Thailand and Cambodia traded claims Sunday over a second disputed Khmer ruin on their border, as the two nations remained at loggerheads in another territorial dispute.

Ta Muen Thom ruin sits on one of many disputed areas along the border, and depending on who you ask lies either in Thailand’s northeastern Surin province or Cambodia’s northern Uddor Meanchey province.

Both Cambodian and Thai officials on Sunday laid claim to the ruin, but denied that they had increased troop numbers there since a military stand-off erupted last month over the more well-known Khmer ruin of Preah Vihear.

“We have a paramilitary post which has been there for several years,” said Major General Sujit Sithiprabha, Thai army commander for the Cambodian border.

“Prasart Ta Muen Thom belongs to us. We have to have soldiers to take care of the area which belongs to us.”

Var Kimhong, chairman of the Cambodia Border Committee, conceded that Thai soldiers were stationed in the ruin, but said this was not a “new thing”.

“Ta Muen is in our territory, but since 1998 Thailand took a chance to occupy it by claiming that they came to conserve it,” he told AFP.

He said that in 2003 he told Thai troops that Ta Muen belonged to Cambodia and asked them to withdraw, and Thailand agreed to pull out as soon as Cambodia built proper roads to the temple.

More than 1,000 Cambodian and Thai soldiers have been positioned close to the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, east of Ta Muen Thom, since July 15 when Thai protesters attempted to reach the site from a closed border point.

During talks last Monday, Cambodia and Thailand both said they were willing to stand down the troops on the border, but neither have shown signs of making the first move.

Major General Sujit denied that Thailand was building up forces in any other border areas, and said they were waiting for word from the government on when to stand down the soldiers at Preah Vihear.

“We have not increased soldiers or invaded into a neighbouring country as we are waiting for the redeployment,” he said.

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