Soldiers face off on Thai-Cambodian border
Thai troops have allegedly mounted an incursion into Cambodian territory over a border dispute involving a 900-year-old temple.
The incident was sparked when three Thai protesters crossed barbed wire to enter the disputed site and were arrested by Cambodian border guards. A Cambodian official said that around 40 Thai soldiers later crossed the border.
"Confrontation is occurring between Thai troops and our Cambodian troops, but there is no shooting yet," said Hang Soth, the Cambodian official in charge of the temple area. "Our troops have been ordered to be on alert but not to fire first."
Thailand denied that its soldiers had entered Cambodia. "We are not violating the territory of Cambodia. We have every right to deploy troops here to protect our sovereignty," said Maj Gen Kanok Netakawesana, a field commander in the region.
Reports said a Thai soldier lost his leg to a landmine, many of which litter the area following Cambodia's long civil war. The three protestors –a man, a woman and a Buddhist monk- were later released.
The ruined eleventh century Preah Vihear Hindu temple is at the centre of a nationalist frenzy whipped up by the Thai opposition in an attempt to overthrow the government.
In 1962 the International Court of Justice awarded the site to Cambodia although its principal entrance is via Thailand. The monument belongs to the same Khmer civilization which built Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Successive Thai governments accepted the verdict.
Earlier this year the Thai government of prime minister Samak Sundaravej supported Cambodia's application to have the temple listed as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations.