>UN world heritage temple damaged in Thai clashes: Cambodia

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Picture showing an M-79 rocket lodged on the head of the statue of naga creature.

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – Cambodia has lodged a complaint with the United Nations accusing Thai troops of damaging the ancient Preah Vihear temple during a border shoot-out earlier this month, an official said Sunday.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for Cambodia’s Council of Ministers, told AFP that a staircase and a sculpture of the mythical Naga creature were damaged by rocket fire at the 11th-century Khmer ruins.

A complaint was filed with the UN cultural body UNESCO a few days after the firefight erupted on October 15 near Preah Vihear, a World Heritage Site at the centre of a long-running territorial dispute between the neighbours.

“Preah Vihear temple was intentionally damaged by Thai troops, because we found the remnants of grenades… near the temple and there were no Cambodian soldiers stationed nearby,” Phay Siphan said.

“The Preah Vihear authority has sent reports and pictures of the damage to UNESCO.”

Three Cambodian soldiers and one Thai troop were killed in the clashes this month, which came as a months-long military standoff between the neighbours erupted into a shoot-out on disputed land.

Tensions between Cambodia and Thailand flared in July when Preah Vihear was awarded UN World Heritage status, rekindling long-simmering tensions over ownership of land surrounding the temple.

Preah Vihear, with its elegant carvings and crumbling stone staircases, is the most important example of ancient Khmer architecture outside Cambodia’s famed Angkor Wat temple complex.

Although the World Court ruled in 1962 that it belonged to Cambodia, the most accessible entrance is in Thailand’s northeastern Si Sa Ket province.

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