The Thai government is restoring temples in a disputed border area of Cambodia, heightening concerns that Thailand is encroaching on Cambodian territory, officials said Monday.
Thailand began the restoration on Ta Moan, Ta Moan Thom and Ta Moan Touch temples in Oddar Meanchey province in a
2 km area that both Cambodia and Thailand lay claim to, said Var Kim Hong, head of the Council of Minister’s Joint Border Commission. The ownership of the temples themselves is also up for debate, he said.
Var Kim Hong, who visited the Oddar Meanchey temples on Sept 22 and again on Saturday, said he sent a report to Prime Minister Hun Sen Monday regarding the restoration of the temples, but declined to comment on the report’s contents.
“If the temples do not belong to them, I wonder why they restore them,” Var Kim Hong said. “But if the temples belong to them, then they are doing a good thing.”
But he added that, “in my opinion, at least two of the temples are on the Khmer side and one is on the Thai side.” Ta Moan Touch and Ta Moan Thom are on the Cambodian side of the disputed area, he said.
An official at the Thai embassy, who refused to give his name, said that the Thai embassy received reports from Cambodian sources that the Thai government was renovating the temples.
However, the official said the Thai Embassy has not received any information or reports from the Thai government regarding the Ta Moan temples project.
The official would not comment when asked about the disputed border area or the temples other than to mention that there were mines around the temple that were laid “a long time ago” and that no one is currently removing the mines. “It is a dangerous area,” he said.
Khmer Borders Protection Organization Director Buth Raksmey Kongkear said villagers told his team that Thai civilians are restoring the temples while Thai soldiers stand guard.