Initial reports of outrage over the placing of a concrete border post near the Preah Vihear temple may have come a few decades late, an army official said Wednesday.
After local villagers had found a pillar on top of a mountain close to the Thai border they were outraged and protested to the local authorities to remove the pillar, which they said 10 Thai soldiers had placed there on Cambodian territory, Khmer-language media reported Monday.
When contacted Tuesday Preah Vihear Provincial Governor Preap Tann said that he was investigating the unknown 1.5-meter-tall demarcation marker, about which villagers from Toek Krahom commune had complained.
Preap Tann went on to say that the marker “violated Cambodian territory” and was as much as 500 meters into sovereign Cambodian territory—something the authorities had confirmed through the use the Global Positioning System.
Provincial RCAF Commander Som Bopharoath said Tuesday that he and his troops were trying to locate the mysterious border marker in Choam Ksan district. Meanwhile, government spokesmen were unable to deny or confirm the seeming intrusion of Thai troops with a border post.
Thai Embassy officials were also scratching their heads about the reports Wednesday.
After inquiring with local Thai authorities, the Embassy’s First Secretary Kamrob Palawatchai said that he had been informed there had been no demarcation activity by Thai troops in the area.
Finally, on Wednesday evening Som Bopharoath was able to explain the seemingly sudden appearance of the pillar nearby the disputed border area, after he had joined his men in their ascent to the top of the Dangrek Mountain where it was found.
“We reported to RCAF high officers that the pillar is not a new one, and we do not know who put this pillar there,” he said.
“It might be just marked there when government troops were stationed during fighting with the Khmer Rouge 20 years ago,” he added.
Som Bopharoath said local villagers saw the marker when they went into the forest to collect honey and reported their find to the commune authorities.
“I spent two days to reach that area,” he said, adding his troops had now removed the aging pillar.
(Additional reporting by Paul Vrieze)