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Cambodia-Thai Conflict

Thai-Cambodian conflict enters 2nd week

Ker Munthit  Jul 24, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Thailand accused Cambodia of eyeing even more of its land and leaflets appeared in the Cambodian capital calling for a boycott of Thai goods, as a military standoff over disputed border territory entered a second week Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Cambodia asked the U.N. Security Council to intervene in the dispute over the 1.8 square miles of land near the ancient temple of Preah Vihear, warning that the two sides were at "an imminent state of war."

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said he had no choice but to appeal to the United Nations after discussions with Thailand on Monday failed to produce a breakthrough in the crisis.

He made a similar request to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, but the region's key bloc urged the two countries to continue bilateral negotiations.

In a countermove Wednesday, Thailand's ambassador to the United Nations, Don Pramudwinai, said Cambodia was bringing the quarrel before the Security Council because "the Cambodian target is not only Preah Vihear but the entire common border."

Don told Bangkok's Business Radio that Cambodia was trying to force Thailand to accept a French colonial map as the document that demarcates the border, stretches of which are disputed.

The French map generally favors Cambodia, and Thailand rejects it saying it was drawn up by a colonial power to its own advantage. Thailand relies on a different map drawn up later with American technical assistance, but accepts a ruling by the International Court of Justice that awarded the disputed temple to Cambodia in 1962.

The fight over the land near Preah Vihear escalated this month when UNESCO approved Cambodia's application to have the complex named a World Heritage Site.

Thailand sent troops to the border July 15 after anti-government demonstrators attacked Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's government for supporting Cambodia's application to UNESCO. They claim the temple's new status will undermine Thailand's claim to land around the temple. Cambodia responded with its own deployment.

Both sides have pledged not to use force, although some 4,000 troops are now amassed in the area.

The standoff entered its second week as Cambodia prepared to hold national elections on July 27.

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said Wednesday Cambodia's stance on the issue may "weaken" after the polls.

"After the elections, it may be easier to talk," he said.

When asked about Thailand's response to Cambodia's recent diplomatic offensive, Samak said: "Let them show their position. There is no damage."

Thai academics have suggested that a solution may only emerge after the polls as politicians on both sides played to nationalist popular sentiment.

Cambodian's Information Minister Khieu Kanharith has earlier dismissed such suggestions, saying the problem was caused by Thailand and that the timing was irrelevant.

The dispute has also shaken Thailand's domestic political scene.

The National Counter Corruption Commission has begun to investigate Samak and his entire Cabinet over accusations that the government violated Thailand's Constitution by not consulting Parliament before supporting Cambodia's application.

The investigation could lead to the impeachment of all members of the government, although the process would be a long one, commission spokesman Klanarong Jantik said Wednesday.

Cambodian police were meanwhile investigating leaflets distributed in Phnom Penh that call for a boycott of Thai products and services.

"While the government is trying to solve the dispute with Thailand, we do not want to see any discrimination against Thai products, and people should not be aroused by such incitement," police chief Brig. Gen. Touch Naroth said.

The atmosphere remained calm among Cambodian and Thai troops at the hilltop Preah Vihear temple Wednesday, despite the intense diplomatic rhetoric by the respective governments.

Troops from both sides "continued interacting cordially," said Cambodian Brig. Gen. Chea Keo without elaborating.

Associated Press writers Ambika Ahuja and Sutin Wannabovorn in Bangkok, Thailand, and Sopheng Cheang in Cambodia, and Sumeth Panpetch along the Thai-Cambodian border contributed to this report.

Thai-Cambodian conflict enters 2nd week
Image via AP

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