Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said he is troubled by reports of renewed fighting over the past two days between Cambodian and Thai troops along the two countries’ border, which has reportedly claimed the lives of many people on both sides.
He said he had been encouraged by the initial signs of progress in regional efforts to strengthen bilateral mechanisms for dealing with the dispute between the two neighbours and called on both sides to exercise maximum restraint.
He urged Cambodia and Thailand to take immediate measures for an effective and verifiable ceasefire.
In a statement released by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban said he also believes that the dispute cannot be resolved by military means and urged the two countries to engage in serious dialogue to find a lasting solution.
Tensions first escalated in July 2008 following the build-up of troops near the Preah Vihear temple, which dates back to the 11th century and is located on the Cambodian side of the border. The Hindu temple was inscribed on the World Heritage List of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that same month.
Considered an outstanding example of Khmer architecture, the temple consists of a complex of sanctuaries linked by pavements and staircases on an 800-metre-long axis.
Early last month, representatives from both sides agreed to a United Nations-sponsored meeting to discuss ways to safeguard the temple, which was damaged in previous border clashes between the South-East Asian neighbours earlier this year.
The two sides had agreed to meet again at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris on 25 May, the agency reported in March.
The agreement followed a mission to Cambodia and Thailand by Koïchiro Matsuura, who served as UNESCO’s Special Envoy for Preah Vihear.