Thailand, Cambodia Renewing Diplomatic Relations

By Kate Pound Dawson

Bangkok,Thailand (RUSHPRNEWS)10/16/2008-– Voice of America reported today that Thailand and Cambodia are renewing diplomatic efforts to end a border dispute centering on an ancient temple complex. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the two nations to use restraint after a clash that left soldiers on both sides of the border wounded and two Cambodians dead. VOA’s Kate Pound Dawson in Bangkok has more.

Officials from both nations are making clear they do not want the dispute to escalate. Military commanders were meeting, Thursday morning, near the border to find ways to avoid new violence.

Both sides accuse the other of starting the Wednesday shooting that left several soldiers injured.

The dispute concerns land around the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple. In 1962, the International Court of Justice granted sovereignty over the temple to Cambodia, but a main access route to it lies in Thailand. For decades, a lingering disagreement over the area was nearly dormant, but it revived in July when Thai nationalists protested Cambodia’s successful request to have the temple declared a U.N. World Heritage site.

Talks on the dispute ended unsuccessfully, Monday, and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen then declared that Thai troops had crossed the border.

Sunai Pasuk, the Thailand representative for Human Rights Watch, says international concerns rose after Mr. Hun Sen issued an ultimatum to Thailand to pull back its troops.

“I believe that Thailand has the world community on its side,” said Sunai. “So, this fact needs to be considered by Hun Sen.”

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concern about the fighting and has called on both countries to peacefully resolve the dispute.

In Washington, the U.S. State Department also urges both governments to avoid violence.

It is not clear exactly what sparked this week’s shooting. However, fear that the conflict may widen has prompted about 400 Thais to leave Cambodia, after Bangkok urged citizens to return home if they did not have urgent business across the border. And, hundreds of Cambodians are reported to be leaving their homes near the temple.