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Troops pull back from temple

Joint inspections in disputed territory 

A Cambodian soldier looks atadilapidated section of the Preah Vihear temple. WASSANANANUAM

Thai and Cambodian soldiers have pulled out from a temple in disputed territory in a bid to ease border tensions.

Ten soldiers from each country positioned at Wat Kaew Sikha Khiri
Sawara near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple withdrew from the area
on Dec1.
The Thai troops moved back to a lowland location, which is part of
the 4.6-square-kilometre disputed area, while the Cambodian soldiers
are now stationed at the entrance of the ancient temple.
Only 40 Cambodian monks remain at Wat Kaew Sikha Khiri Sawara following the troop pullout.
Soldiers have agreed to jointly inspect the temple and the disputed
area between 10am and 5pm every day, but they will not stay overnight
at the temple.
Cambodia had planned to reopen the ancient Hindu temple to tourists
but Thailand set the precondition that vending stalls must not be built
near its entrance.
The gate allowing access to the 11th-century site for visitors from
Thailand has been closed by Cambodia since July 2008 after a group of
Thai protesters rallied near the ruins.
Cambodia has since cut the number of troops at the temple and they
no longer carry weapons. Heavy machine guns and artillery were also
withdrawn from the temple to create a tourist-friendly atmosphere.
The Unesco World Heritage Committee’s blue flag and the Cambodian
national flag have been put on the top of the ancient temple and signs
announcing the Unesco heritage listing of the temple have been erected
at the entrance.
Parts of the ancient temple have begun to crumble. WASSANA NANUAM
Cambodian soldiers and police guarding the site said Cambodian
authorities had planned to allow Thai tourists to enter the temple via
Mo E-daeng cliff in Si Sa Ket’s Kantharalak district as a New Year
gift. However, Thailand has refused to open the entrance from its side.
Second Army Region commander Thawatchai Samutsakhon confirmed that
Thailand had set the condition that no shophouses be built near the
entrance in return for it agreeing to reopen the temple.
He said it would take time for the reopening and more talks between the two countries would be required.
Thai authorities are adopting a wait-and-see attitude towards
potential activities by the yellow shirt People’s Alliance for
Democracy (PAD), which has campaigned against border talks between the
two countries.
The PAD has accused the government of putting the country’s
sovereignty at stake over the areas adjacent to the Preah Vihear temple
in its border negotiations with Cambodia.
It has demanded that the government scrap a memorandum of understanding on boundary demarcation signed with Cambodia in 2000.
Lt Gen Thawatchai said that the military had neither withdrawn
troops from the disputed area nor cut their numbers. He said it had
only rearranged its troops to avoid confrontations with Cambodian
soldiers.
He said the reopening of the ancient temple rested with the governments from the two countries.
Cambodian soldiers and a Chinese construction firm have been seen building a road to Preah Vihear.
Thailand has protested against the construction of the 3,600-metre road, but the protest has been ignored by Cambodia.
A road is being built to the temple from the Cambodian side of the border. JETJARASNARANONG
Woodenstairs provide easy access for tourists visiting the ancient ruins from theCambodianside. JETJARASNARANONG
  
Bangkok Post
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Categories: Local News
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