07/17/2008, 00.00
CAMBODIA - THAILAND
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Dialogue begun, troops amassed at temple of Preah Vihar

Hundreds of soldiers from the two sides continue to arrive at the contested temple, although both sides say the measures are merely defensive. Tension is high and the Thai police have stopped a group going to the temple to protest. A "cordial" telephone call between the two prime ministers.

Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Cambodia and Thailand continue to amass troops at the contested temple of Preah Vihar, despite the talks agreed on July 21 to seek a solution. The situation is tense, and today the Thai police and population stopped militants of the nationalist People's Alliance for Democracy a few kilometres from the temple, where they were going to protest against Cambodia.

Today, the third day of military presence in the border zone between the two countries, it is estimated that there are at least 400 Thai soldiers and 800 Cambodian. The two sides are seeking to alleviate the attention through dialogue. Cambodian information minister Khieu Kanharith says "it's better to say this is some kind of misunderstanding", and explains that the prime ministers of the two countries had a "cordial" telephone conversation on July 21, and the respective defence ministers "will meet to resolve the situation".

General Anupong Paojinda, head of the Thai army, and also observes that "negotiations between the two countries" are necessary to "resolve" the problem at the border. Both parties say they will not "use force unless attacked", Khieu Kanharith says.

On July 15, Cambodian police arrested three Thai demonstrators. In response, Bangkok sent soldiers to the area. Cambodia accuses the Thai soldiers of crossing the border, while Bangkok denies this and says that the troops were sent only to protect its own territory. The Thai soldiers have positioned themselves in small groups with automatic weapons and in combat gear, while the Cambodians are patrolling up and down the area.

Last week, UNESCO declared the temple a World Heritage Site, which reignited the dispute. In 1962, the International Court of Justice said that it belonged to Cambodia, but the dispute over who owns the 4.6 square kilometres where it stands has never died down. 900 years old, the temple belongs to Cambodian culture, and its style shows Hindu influences, like the more famous Angkor complex in northwestern Cambodia.

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