Tensions ease around border temple

Published: 24/07/2011 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News

The situation along the Thai-Cambodian border has returned to normal and it is now safe to visit tourist spots in the border areas, says Second Army chief Thawatchai Samutsakhon.

Lt Gen Thawatchai said the 2nd Army has allowed residents and tourists to re-enter the disputed area around Preah Vihear, including the Pha Mor I Dang cliff in Si Sa Ket's Kantharalak district, as well as Ta Muen and Ta Kwai temples in Phanom Dong Rak district of neighbouring Surin province.

Traders from Phum Srol village in Kantharalak district, the epicentre of the Thai-Cambodian clashes earlier this year, have also been allowed to re-open souvenir and goods shops.

He said border tensions have eased since the July 3 general election because Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is expecting to resume talks with the incoming government led by the Pheu Thai Party.

Lt Gen Thawatchai said Indonesian observers must seek permission from the Thai government to enter the disputed area. Their access to the area may be delayed until the new government approves their request, he said.

Cambodia wants Indonesian observers to enter the disputed area before its military pulls out, but Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva insists Cambodia withdraw its troops first.

Mr Abhisit demands Cambodia enter talks with Thailand as their stances on troop withdrawal differ.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on Monday that Thailand and Cambodia should withdraw their soldiers from the disputed area and allow observers from Asean access to the area pending its consideration of a Cambodian petition concerning ownership of the area.

The ICJ set up a "provisional demilitarised zone" around Preah Vihear temple.

A military source at the border said the ruling may put Thailand at a disadvantage because Thai troops occupy more key strategic locations in the disputed areas than Cambodian troops.

The source is also concerned the Cambodian military might mobilise villagers and family members of its soldiers in the disputed area for development, trade and tourism purposes because the court did not ban civilians from entering the area.