Cambodia informed the UN Security Council July 20 that Thai forces have violated its territory near the ancient Preah Vihear temple, with hundreds of troops facing off across the border. While Cambodia is not yet calling for UN intervention, some 300 were Thai troops equipped with grenade and rocket launchers were sent to the Phra Viharn national park July 19, with another 2,400 soldiers in Kantharalak district of Thailand’s Si Sa Ket province. Some 2,000 Cambodian soldiers have been mobilized to the Cambodian side.
The conflict over the Preah Vihear temple escalated following UNESCO’s approval of Cambodia’s application to have the complex named a World Heritage Site. Thai activists fear the new status will undermine Thailand’s claim to adjacent territory since the border has never been demarcated. Cambodian representative to the UN cited the 1904 map made by then-Siam and France, which places the land in then-French Indochina. (AP, Bangkok Post, July 20)
The standoff nearly came to violence July 17, when witnesses said troops twice pointed their rifles at each other during 10 tense minutes after 50 Cambodian troops entered the temple complex. The confrontation began after three Thai protesters were arrested for jumping a fence to reach the temple July 15, and Thailand sent 500 troops to the temple. The World Court ruled in 1962 that the 11th-century Hindu temple belongs to Cambodia. But the most accessible entrance to the ruins lies in Thailand and 4.6 square kilometers of the surrounding land remains in dispute. (AFP, July 19; BBC, July 15)