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Thai troops ‘cross into Cambodia

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About 40 Thai troops have crossed into Cambodian territory in the latest flare-up of a dispute over an ancient temple, Cambodian officials have said.

The head of the national authority for the Preah Vihear temple said there was a stand-off, but had been no shooting.

Thai military officials said soldiers had been deployed on Thai territory nearby “to protect our sovereignty”.

Earlier, three Thai protesters were arrested for illegally crossing the border in an attempt to enter the site.

The 11th-Century Hindu temple and the land around it have been the subject of a border dispute for decades.

‘Misunderstanding’

The head of the agency in charge of the temple site, Hang Soth, said the Thai soldiers had positioned themselves at a Buddhist pagoda located on a mountain slope below and were now negotiating with the Cambodian authorities.

Governor of Si Sa Ket Province
There is no trespassing by our soldiers Seni Chittakasem

“At first about 20 troops entered a pagoda in Cambodian territory. Later they increased their numbers to about 40,” he told the AFP news agency. “We don’t understand yet why they came.”

Hang Soth said that Cambodian troops in the area had been placed on alert but ordered not to open fire first, and that there had not been any shooting.

Thai officials later denied their troops had entered Cambodian soil.

The regional Thai army commander, Maj-Gen Kanok Netakawesana, said they were on Thai territory close to the disputed area.

“We have every right to deploy troops here to protect our sovereignty,” he told the Associated Press.

The governor of the neighbouring Thai province of Si Sa Ket, Seni Chittakasem, insisted there had been a misunderstanding.

Map

“There is no trespassing by our soldiers,” he said.

The Preah Vihear temple was awarded to Cambodia by the International Court of Justice in 1962, forcing Thai troops who had occupied the area to withdraw.

It then became caught up in Cambodia’s civil conflict, falling to the Khmer Rouge in 1975 and only being opened to the public in 1998.

The dispute has escalated since Cambodia applied for World Heritage status for the temple, which was granted by Unesco this month.

The application was endorsed by Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama, but this caused controversy in Thailand and he resigned last week after a court ruled he had breached the constitution.

Source: BBC NEWS

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