Thailand Protests Ceremonies at Preah Vihear Temple

Thailand strongly protested two events organized by the Cambodian government near Preah Vihear temple, again toughening the rhetoric on the disputed border area after negotiations in Siem Reap last week had seemingly ease tensions.

The Thai Foreign Affairs Ministry objected in two statements Friday to a ceremony Oct 7 when flags of Cambodia and Unesco were raised near the temple and to a Kathen ceremony Oct 12 at a nearby pagoda. The statements argued that the events were held on Thailand’s territory without its permission and that the Cambodian pagoda occupies Thai land.

“The illegal presence of the “Keo Sikha Kiri Savara” Pagoda in the Thai territory, as well as the above-mentioned activities constitute a flagrant and willful violation of Thailand’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” one of the statements read.

Cambodian officials strongly rejected the Thai statements Sunday.

“Keo Sikha Kiri Svarak pagoda belongs to Cambodia and is in Cambodia, and Cambodia used this soil 100 years ago,” Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said, adding the Thai statements were unreasonable.

The flags were raised on permanent poles erected about 20 meters from the temple. On maps they’ve released, each country claims the pagoda and the promontory around the temple.

The Thai ministry argued that Cambodian and Unesco symbols could only be displayed within the confines of Preah Vihear temple, as the temple alone was designated a World Heritage site. The ministry also complained about Cambodians traveling without permission through what it claims is Thai soil to attend the two ceremonies.

Thai officials could not be reached for comment Sunday.

The Sunday statements were two of many strongly worded exchanges between Thailand and Cambodia since the start of the 4-month-old quarrel, even though in reportedly amicable talks Wednesday in Siem Reap, both Thai and Cambodian foreign affairs ministers agreed to soon start the demarcation of the disputed area.

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