Dispute over Preah Vihear temple goes to Security Council
Bangkok (AsianNews/Agencies) - The UN Security Council will discuss, within the next week, the dispute between Cambodia and Thailand over the temple of Preah Vihear, in order to defuse what has been called "an imminent state of war". Meanwhile, the two sides have amassed about 4,000 soldiers in the area, with heavy artillery.
Maurice Ripert, the French ambassador to the UN, yesterday expressed his concern over the "growing tension", and confirmed that the meeting of the Council should be held "as fast as possible". Today, the two sides exchanged accusations of increasing their military presence in the area, and each says that the other side has placed more troops and weapons there.
The dispute concerns the area of about 4.6 kilometers where the temple stands. In 1962, the International Court of Justice ruled that it belonged to Cambodia. Phnom Penh has asked for the UN intervention, after eight hours of closed-door talks on July 21 between the foreign ministers of the two countries achieved no results. It has also asked for the mediation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, to which both countries belong, but ASEAN has only invited them to "continue bilateral negotiations".
In reply, the Thai ambassador to the UN, Don Pramudwinai, has accused Cambodia of wanting "not only Preah Vihear but the entire common border", by virtue of claims "with no legal status", based on an old colonial French repartition. Bangkok affirms that the area of the template is "common property", by tradition and by historical and religious importance, and on July 15 sent soldiers to "guard" its territorial integrity. Phnom Penh sent troops in turn, and responds that the area has always been "Cambodian soil".
The domestic politics of the two countries is wrapped up in the problem. In Thailand, opposition groups are stirring up national pride to defeat the government, and foreign minister Samak Sundaravej has already been forced to resign. In Cambodia, political elections take place on Sunday.