Cambodian Prime minister Hun Sen gave Thailand a noon deadline today to withdraw all its troops from an area adjacent to the Preah Vihear temple on the Thai-Cambodian border or face a "large-scale conflict.”
Thailand’s response was immediate. Thai army spokesman Sansern Kaewkumnerd denied the Cambodian claim that Thai troops had withdrawn from the disputed area. He reiterated instead his country’s willingness “to continue with bilateral talks, but if the situation escalates, we are ready.”
Furthermore, Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornwiwait said about 80 troops went into the disputed territory on a mine removal mission after two Thai soldiers lost legs earlier this month when they stepped on land mines.
Tensions between the two neighbours heated up last August after UNESCO declared the Preah Vihear Temple a world heritage site in July.
The holy site, which is located on a promontory, belongs to Cambodia in accordance with a decision made by the International Court of Justice in 1962.
The surrounding area, no more than 4.5 km2, is however at the heart of a dispute between the two neighbours, each claiming substantial chunks of the other country’s territory.
The Thai military controls the main roads into the Temple area and some border sections are not clearly demarcated, factors which have fuelled tensions between Phnom Penh and Bangkok, which have in recent weeks deployed respectively 800 and 400 soldiers along the border.