Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Borders and resources

Phnom Penh - Cambodia declared the Preah Vihear Khmer temple off the agenda when Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej made an official visit that raised some old animosities in Cambodia.
Samak is already back in Thailand after his overnight stay on Monday and Tuesday, which aimed at strengthening bilateral ties but the temple strengthened some Cambodians' suspicions.
Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said Samak's visit was a tradition for new leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which both countries are members.
Hor Namhong said Samak and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen will address issues including the Thai-funded repairs of a number of Cambodian border roads, but there would be no signing ceremony.
"But Hun Sen will not talk about the Preah Vihear Temple," he said.
Cambodia has sought to register the ancient temple on the far northern border as a Unesco World Heritage site, but Thailand has objected.
Instead, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An would visit Thailand and hold specific talks with the Thai side about the temple "in the near future," he said, without setting a date.
Some Cambodian groups have been angered by Thailand's obstruction of Cambodia's request to have the disputed temple listed. Some Thai groups are equally upset that Cambodia will not consult Thailand, which currently offers the only easy ingress to the long-disputed temple location.
Cambodia's nationalistic Student Movement for Democracy issued a statement demanding that Hun Sen refuse to speak with Samak on the issue, citing the 1962 ruling by the International Court of Justice in the Hague that Preah Vihear temple belongs to Cambodia.
The movement's leader, Kein Sara, was briefly imprisoned in 2003 for his alleged role in the anti-Thai riots in Phnom Penh. Angry mobs burned the Thai embassy and Thai businesses after false rumours spread that a Thai actress supposedly claimed that another cultural icon, the Angkor Wat temple complex, was Thai. Sara was quickly released.
Although allies, tensions between the neighbouring nations go back for centuries. In 2003, some Cambodian firefighters showed their tacit approval of the riots by reportedly taking water to put out the Thai embassy fires from the city's sewers instead of fire hydrants.
These tensions have not been helped by Thailand's refusal to agree on sea borders as Cambodia looks to exploit potentially rich offshore oil reserves within two years, another issue expected to be on Samak's agenda. (dpa)

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