A Thai official has asked Cambodia to halt its efforts to rebuild the razed market at the base of Preah Vihear temple, saying the construction project goes against a memorandum of understanding signed by the two nations in 2000.
The letter, written in Khmer and appearing in the Khmer-language newspaper Koh Santepheap Daily, accused Cambodia of violating the MoU—specifically its fifth article—which spelled out how the two sides would jointly delineate the border.
Article five reads that “authorities of either Government and their agents shall not carry out any work resulting in changes of environment of the frontier zone, except that which is carried out by the Joint Technical Sub-Commission in the interest of the survey and demarcation.”
Sent Thursday, the note was signed by Phichhit Vanntha, director of Border Relations to Region One in Thailand’s Si Sa Ket province, and addressed to several Cambodian authorities, including the Preah Vihear National Authority, the provincial government and provincial RCAF leaders.
Spokesman for the Council of Ministers Phay Siphan said Cambodian authorities are not altering the environment but merely returning it to its original state. He claimed Thai forces are the ones responsible for changing the area after they destroyed the market during a firefight in early April.
“The rocket launched by Thais, that changed it,” he said. “We have to build it back.”
Mr Siphan added that the marketplace was present before the signing of the 2000 MoU and its rebuilding has nothing to do with the joint demarcation of borderlines-the subject matter of the memorandum.
More than 200 vendors and their families were left homeless from the fire that wrecked the structure and, less than a week later, Prime Minister Hun Sen called for its immediate reconstruction.
Work on the marketplace’s foundation has begun and although Prasat village chief Prak Sothy said he had not heard of the letter, he stated construction at the temple was continuing nonetheless.
Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Ministry, said the ministry has not officially received the memo though he read about it in the newspaper. He said the market was clearly in Cambodian territory and its reconstruction was not a border issue.
General Border Committee Chairman Var Kimhong declined to comment Monday, saying he was too busy to speak with a reporter.
Officials with the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh did not respond to a phone message seeking comment.