Cambodian officials on Sunday said that the Thai border crossing to Preah Vihear temple has been closed and noted that an increasing force of Thai soldiers has been deployed to the area.
Preah Vihear provincial police Chief Chea San said Cambodian officials closed their gate to Preah Vihear temple only because Thailand closed theirs first.
“We do not shut down the gate first. Thai authorities did it first,” Chea San said. “We have no reason to keep the gate open because they stop tourists from [crossing from] their side into Cambodia.”
Chea San said Cambodian officials want Thailand to stop conducting demining activities in the zone and to stop sending what he described as increasing numbers of armed soldiers.
“They sent around 400 soldiers to [the] demining place, and they deploy heavy weapons behind,” said Preah Vihear provincial Governor Preap Tann, who recently spent an entire day at the temple.
Thai Ambassador Piyawat Niyomrerks said Sunday that he was not aware of any closures at the temple.
The most accessible entry route to Preah Vihear is from Thailand. Under an international agreement, neither side can claim ownership to the land around the temple, Piyawat Niyomrerks said.
But both countries have recently blamed each other for violating the agreement and infringing on the disputed zone. Thailand points to living quarters that Cambodia has constructed in the area and claims that the structures are polluting waterways on both sides of the border, Piyawat Niyomrerks said.
He added that Thailand’s demining activities are nothing new.
“The demining operation in that area has been going on for, I don’t know, a long time,” he said, adding that he did not think that Thailand has deployed more soldiers to the area.
“Both sides have enough troops there now,” Piyawat Niyomrerks said. “I don’t have any reports of conflicts in that area.”