Abhisit hits back over dispute

Sep 29, 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

BANGKOK - PRIME Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva hit out at his Cambodian counterpart on Tuesday for saying that Thai trespassers would be shot near a disputed temple on their border.

Cambodian premier Hun Sen said on Monday that he had ordered his troops to shoot anyone from neighbouring Thailand who crossed onto land around the 11th century Preah Vihear temple.

Mr Hun Sen's comments came a little over a week after Thai protesters rallied near the ancient temple, the site of clashes that have killed seven soldiers since tensions flared last year.

'Whenever he gives interviews to the foreign media he always has this attitude where he wants to make headlines,' Mr Abhisit told reporters of his opposite number.

He said Mr Hun Sen wanted to 'retaliate' for the Thai protests on September 19. But he insisted that Thailand still wanted to find a 'peaceful' solution to the dispute over the temple through a joint border commission set up by the two countries.

Cambodia and Thailand have been at loggerheads over the land around Preah Vihear for decades, but tensions spilled over into violence last July when the temple was granted UNESCO World Heritage status. The World Court ruled in 1962 that it belonged to Cambodia.

Mr Abhisit said he had raised the issue with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during the UN General Assembly in New York last week, saying that UNESCO had worsened tensions between Thailand and Cambodia.

He also sought to reassure protesters who rallied at the temple earlier this month and who accused the government of failing to defend its claims over the disputed 4.6 square kilometres of land around Preah Vihear.

'Thai people have nothing to worry about. We will assert our rights,' Mr Abhisit said.

Soldiers from Cambodia and Thailand continue to patrol the area, with the last gunbattle near the temple area in April leaving three people dead. The border between the two countries has never been fully demarcated, in part because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia. -- AFP

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