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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tensions rise on Thai-Cambodia border after arrests

Tensions rise on Thai-Cambodia border after arrests

Penh - Around 40 armed Thai border police crossed the Cambodian border
into Preah Vihear temple after Cambodian authorities arrested three
Thais, alarming tourists and sparking urgent talks between the two
sides, authorities said Tuesday.

Soth, secretary-general of the government's Preah Vihear authority,
said the armed group arrived after Cambodian soldiers had detained two
Thai border guards and a Thai Buddhist monk.

He said the
arrested trio had been warned first but continued and were detained on
suspicion of planning to demonstrate the listing of Preah Vihear temple
as a UN World Heritage Site.

Cambodia was now preparing to
repatriate them and they would be returned some time Tuesday, he said,
but added that tensions had risen considerably after the armed border
guards arrived in support.

State-run Thai TV PBS identified the three arrested as Phicharn Thapsorn, 35, Chanikarn Singnok, 64, and Buddhist Monk Khamphor.

the arrests, around 40 black uniformed Thai border guards with guns
arrived at the temple and scared tourists with their weapons," Hang
Soth said by telephone.

He said most of them had now
returned to the Thai side of the border voluntarily. Cambodia has had
riot police and military on standby at the temple since Thai protests

The arrested group had crossed in to Preah Vihear
province, Cambodia, from the Thai Khantalak district in Si Sa Khet
province on Monday, the TV station said.

Preah Vihear
temple, known as Phra Viharn in Thailand, was named a World Heritage
Site at a UNESCO meeting in Quebec earlier this month, despite Thai
opposition to the listing.

The ancient Hindu temple,
perched on a 525-metre-high cliff on the Dangrek Mountain range that
defines the Thai-Cambodian border, has been the source of a sovereignty
dispute for decades.

An ownership spat between Cambodia
and Thailand led to a suspension of diplomatic relations in 1958 and
eventually ended up in The Hague for an international settlement in
1962. Cambodia won.

The temple reemerged as a source of
bilateral tensions in 2006 when Cambodia first proposed listing the
monument as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

objected, and succeeded in blocking the subscription attempt in 2006
and 2007 on the grounds that parts of the temple compound were still
subject to a border dispute.

Cambodia redrew the Preah
Vihear inscription map this year, excluding the disputed territory. It
was approved by the World Heritage Committee on July 7.

The Thai government at first backed the proposal, but then withdrew support when the issue became a political hot potato.

of Si Sa Khet province, about 400 kilometres north-east of Bangkok,
have been protesting the listing since early July, prompting Cambodia
to shut access to the temple from the Thai side of the border.//dpa


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