Military Protests New Thai Fence Near Preah Vihear

Cambodia has accused the Thai army of erecting a new barbed wire fence on land near Preah Vihear temple that both countries lay claim to, and has asked Thailand to tear it down.

General Srey Doek, who commands the 3rd Intervention Division of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), which is stationed around the temple, said Thailand erected the 130-meter long fence on Wednesday on disputed land over which Thai and Cambodian troops have repeatedly exchanged fire in recent years.

“We sent a letter demanding that the Thai soldiers remove the barbed wire on May 29, one day after they erected it, but the Thai soldiers replied to us to wait until their commander comes back,” Gen. Doek said.

The general would not speculate on the reason for the provocation, which he said was only the latest instance since sporadic fighting over the contested borderline around the temple first broke out in 2008.

But it came only days after the Thai army imposed martial law in the country and deposed the government, after which it beefed up border security and closed down most unofficial corridors.

Gen. Doek would not specify exactly where the new fence has been built, but said it violated a November ruling of the International Court of Justice which confirmed Cambodia’s claim to the entire promontory on which Preah Vihear temple sits and ordered all Thai personnel to leave.

Neither nation would say how many Thai personnel were in the area, but Cambodia agreed at the time not to press the matter until ongoing political tensions inside Thailand were settled.

At the time of the ruling, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was already under mounting pressure to step down by anti-government protesters in Bangkok. The situation inside Thailand has only deteriorated since then, with the army taking full control of the country late last month.

Colonel Werachon Sukondhadhpatipak, a spokesman for the Thai army, said he was unaware of developments along the border because he was preoccupied with events in Bangkok. Pakdi Touchayoot, Thailand’s ambassador to Cambodia, could not be reached for comment.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for Cambodia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, claimed that the fence violated not the IJC ruling, but a memorandum of understanding (MOU) Thailand and Cambodia signed in 2000, agreeing that neither side would in any way develop the disputed area.

“It is in front of the temple,” he said of the new fence. “The Cambodian army sent a letter to the Thai side because it violated the MOU from 2000, which says that the area has to remain status quo, meaning there can be no development in that area.”

He confirmed that Cambodia was still waiting on Thailand for an explanation.

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