Cambodia and Thailand continued to reinforce their troops
along a disputed border area near an 11th century temple
Saturday, even as they prepared for talks to avert a military
Some 300 more Cambodian soldiers and 100 Thais were seen by
Associated Press reporters arriving near the Preah Vihear temple
late Friday, although commanders declined to confirm those
Earlier, Cambodian Brig. Gen. Chea Keo said Cambodia had about
800 troops against 400 Thai soldiers in the area as the standoff
entered a fifth day.
The countries are to meet Monday in an attempt to defuse the
conflict over territory surrounding the ancient temple, which
escalated when UNESCO recently approved Cambodia's application to
have the complex named a World Heritage Site. Thai activists fear
the new status will undermine Thailand's claim to nearby land
since the border has never been demarcated.
Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said the area around a
Buddhist pagoda where Thai troops have been stationed since
Tuesday belongs to Thailand.
Cambodia's Chea Keo said troops from the opposing forces were
on the brink of a shoot-out Thursday night when Cambodian monks gathered to celebrate Buddhist lent at the pagoda about 220 yards
(200 meters) from the ancient temple.
The incident occurred when Thai troops tried to evict about 50
Cambodian soldiers from the compound of the Buddhist pagoda,
where they sought to camp for the night to provide security for
the monks. The two sides raised their rifles at each other, but
the standoff ended with the Cambodians eventually pulling back,
Chea Keo said Friday.
A Thai army spokeswoman said she was not aware of any
brinksmanship taking place.
Thai soldiers entered the Preah Vihear area Tuesday, staking
out positions at the Buddhist temple compound. However, some
resident Cambodian monks remained and Cambodian soldiers have
continued to visit them.
On Saturday, Cambodian Maj. Gen. Srey Doek met with a Thai
field commander, Col. Chayan Huaysoongnern, at the pagoda to
discuss measures to prevent violence.
"I and Chayan must work together to solve it peacefully,
without firing the weapons," Srey Doek told reporters.
The two appeared cordial during the meeting, with Srey Doek
inviting Chayan to join him for lunch at the Cambodian command
post. The Thai commander responded to the invitation with a nod and a smile.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen wrote a letter to Samak on
Thursday saying relations had been "worsening" since Thai troops
"encroached on our territory," and asked him to pull them back.
Responding to his Cambodian counterpart, Samak said the area
around the pagoda referred to in the letter "is within the Thai
territory," according to a statement Saturday from the Thai
Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
While urging both sides to exercise restraint, Samak's letter
said the settlement of Cambodians in that area constitutes "a
continued violation of Thailand's sovereignty and territorial
The dispute has taken a toll on tourism in the area, with the
Thai side closed to visitors. It also is starting to hurt
economic relations between the two neighbors. (****)