Tensions continued Wednesday at Preah Vihear temple on the Cambodian-Thai border, as Cambodia sent more troops to block possible advances by the Thai military.
“We have already prepared ourselves to protect our land and our sovereignty,” said an RCAF general who did not want his name used. “Now we have enough armed forces to [protect] the border at the temple,” the general said. “We have to prevent them, not intervene after they get in.”
Cambodia has moved nearly 1,000 troops and police officers to Preah Vihear since Dec 17, when the Thais unilaterally closed the border near the famed Angkorian temple. Cambodian officials say the Thai army has also deployed more soldiers at the site, and two Thai military helicopters are stationed near the border.
The temple has been a sore spot between the two countries, who have quarreled for years over who should control it. The World Court has ruled the temple is on Cambodian land atop the Dangrek escarpment separating the two countries
Because of a geological quirk, however, access to the temple is easy from the Thai side but very difficult from Cambodia. Until recently, the countries had cooperated to ensure that tourists could visit the temple.
The countries have been arguing over the fate of Cambodian families and vendors living and working in a five-meter gap between the entrance to the temple and the Thai border.
The Thais want to move them farther from the temple and plant a garden at the entrance. They say the families pollute water flowing into villages in nearby Si Sa Ket. The Cambodians have refused to move, however, saying they fear it is a ploy by Thailand to gain more land. Talks on the matter are scheduled for Jan 14.
Meanwhile, the Thais have closed the border near the temple, making it virtually impossible for tourists to visit. Cambodia is currently repairing roads on its side of the border, in hopes of making the temple more accessible.