Thai Military Official Says No Problem at Preah Vihear Border

choam khsan district, Preah Vihear province – A senior Thai military official said Friday that there is no problem between Thailand and Cambodia at the Preah Vihear temple or nearby border areas.

The visit by Thai Major General Witoon Thisayabutr to the temple came a week after the Thai Foreign Ministry lodged a complaint with the Cambodian Ambassador to Thailand over an alleged Cambo­dian troop buildup at Preah Vihear.

The complaint by Bangkok was the latest flare-up in a long-standing dispute over the temple and surrounding territory, which has intensified since Cambodia has sought to have the temple listed as a UN World Heritage Site.

There is “no problem in the border area between Thailand and Cambodia,” Witoon said during an interview at the base of the stairway leading up to the temple.

Witoon, who met with RCAF Colonel Path Sophen, chief of the Cambodian-Thai Border Coor­dination Office at Preah Vihear temple, said his visit was a sign of good relations between the two countries.

Witoon also said he did not discuss the allegations of a Cam­bodian troop buildup with Path Sophen or Cambodia’s bid to list the temple as a UN World Heritage Site.

“The government talks about that,” Witoon said. “The officers only talk about friendship.”

Thai Embassy Defense Attache Chanavut Budkinnaree said Monday that he was unaware of Witoon’s visit to Preah Vihear, but added that the newly appointed chief is scheduled to visit his Cambodian counterpart, Lieuten­ant General Kieng Savuth, on April 30 in Phnom Penh.

Chanavut said that an area of about 8 square km around the temple continues to be a matter of contention between the two countries.

“We try to negotiate with [Cambodia], but they say the whole area belongs to them,” he said.

Monday, Defense Minister Tea Banh reiterated the government’s claim that, contrary to the Thai complaint, no additional Cambodian forces had been deployed to Preah Vihear temple.

“There have been no increases of forces along the border,” Tea Banh said by telephone, adding that any military or police personnel were stationed there long ago.

“There have been no preparations for anything,” Tea Banh said.

The only troops visible in the area Friday were one Thai and one Cambodian officer stationed on their respective sides of the border.

A statement dated April 12 on the Preah Vihear National Auth­ority Web site said the presence of some guards is “to ensure safety and security to tourists. This situation and condition must not be viewed by Thai side as deployment or stationing of military and police forces.”

Military Police Major Chum Chamrong, deputy director of general staff for Preah Vihear province, said Friday that 31 military police officers are permanently stationed in the temple area and nearby village.

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