Two dead as Thai-Cambodian border conflict escalates

Thai and Cambodian troops exchanged rocket and rifle fire for about an hour Oct. 15 in a border skirmish over claims to the 900-year-old mountaintop temple known to Cambodians as Preah Vihear and to Thais as Khao Phra Viharn. At least two Cambodian soldiers were killed, Cambodia’s Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said. Several hundred soldiers from both sides have faced each other at the border since July, when UNESCO approved Cambodia’s request to have the temple named a World Heritage site.

Officially part of Cambodia since a 1962 World Court ruling, the temple has been accessible mainly from Thailand. It was part of the Khmer Rouge-controlled zone until the rebels laid down arms in 1998, and continued to be off-limits via Cambodian territory due to land-mines for years thereafter. The only year-round road leading to the temple is via Thai territory.

In addition to mines laid by both sides in Cambodia’s civil war, Bangkok now accuses the Cambodian government of laying new mines around the temple—including on territory claimed by Thailand, in violation of both Thai sovereignty and the 1997 Ottawa Convention banning land-mines. (Asia Times, Oct. 18; NYT, Reuters, Oct. 14)

See our last post on the Thai-Cambodian conflict.