Thai-Cambodia : Slim Truce Over the Contest of Preah Vihear Temple
PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - August 14th, 2008 - Cambodia and Thailand have agreed to withdraw most of the 1,000 troops facing off for a month near the disputed Preah Vihear temple on their border, a Cambodian commander on the ground said on Thursday.
The announcement was made just days before the scheduled meeting between the 2 countries' foreign ministers in Thailand to discuss on a second resolution to mark the border around the temple.
The decision marked a crucial progress when only yesterday The Combodian Confederation Of Unions announced that it would hold a demonstration in Phnom Penh on Sunday to demand the Thai to withdraw its military from the disputed border of Ta Moan Thom.
The announcement was made in a letter to Municipal Governor Kep Chuktema and stated that at least 300 people would gather at the former National Assembly building and march through the city.
The heated and sometimes violent debate was stirred and rekindled by UNESCO's error on drawing the world's heritage protection border by a few kilometres too wide.
Prasat or Temple of Preah Vihear was originally awarded to Combodia by the International Court of Justice in a long and messy battle back in 1962. Thailand has sinced protested the judgment.
However by some strange unintentional salt rubbing to the wound, UNESCO drew the map around the temple a wee bit too wide to suit the Thais which had always been sore for having to literally "give up" the prasat. And now with the new border, the Thais felt that they were wronged.
At the border of Ta Moan Tham, a several hundred kilometres west of the temple, the Combodian and Thai soldiers have been locked in a standoff in a dispute over the land of the temple for months.
The contest has been increasingly violent between the two countries where Thais and Combodian soldiers stand eye to eye and the two are seperated from scratching each other by only hastily installed barbed wires and mock fences made by branches.
However tourists can still be seen walking and clicking away their Nikons amongst the spectacular temple ruins which was built in the 9th century of the Khmer Empire. Located ontop of the hillside of Pey Tadi, the temple was to reflect the empire's spiritual life. But at present, the Thai troops guarding the border says that the Combodian could start shooting at any moment.
And the Thai responded that they were willing and ready for it as it was reported they too would gladly die for their country.
As the situation remains tense, at least the possibility of it cooling off are currently in the works where the 2 countries have not only agreed to reduce the troops but also to renegotiate on a resolution this Sunday.
"We will leave only 10 armed men for each side," General Chea Mon told Reuters in Phnom Penh. "Other forces will be returned to military bases."
As the first negotiation failed, it doesn't take much for the current slim truce to blow up again -- an irony of reality for a dispute over a place intended for serenity and perfecting the spiritual soul...