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Cambodia temporarily closes temple in dispute


June 24, 2008

Cambodia temporarily closes temple in dispute
Cambodian authorities ordered the closure of an historic temple on the Thai-Cambodia border Monday, and deployed an armed military unit for added security at the site to guard the temple under consideration as a World Heritage site in the wake of continuing protests in Thailand over the issue, according to a senior Thai military source.

The source downplayed concerns that the move might affect bilateral relations,saying it was a precautionary measure for security reason to prevent ill-intentioned people from causing any disturbances, reported Thai News Agency.

The Cambodian authorities made the move in light of continuing protests in Thailand's northeastern province of Si Sa Ket bordering Cambodia demanding the eviction of Cambodian souvenir vendors from the stairway leading to the ancient ruins of the temple and opposing Cambodia's move to apply for registration the temple as a World Heritage site.

The Phnom Penh government will apply for registration of the ancient temple as a World Heritage site during the upcoming UNESCO meeting in Canada between July 2-10 as both Thailand and Cambodia signed a joint communique last Wednesday endorsing the Cambodian application.

Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama was taken to task in the Senate debate Monday for allegedly rushing through the temple deal with Cambodia.

Noppadon is among seven cabinet ministers in the Samak Sundaravej administration targetted by the opposition Democrat Party in a no-confidence debate scheduled on Tuesday.

He was accused of mishandling the Preah Vihear issue.

The foreign minister himself, however, dismissed the accusation and expressed confidence  that he would be able to clarify all questions related to the issue.

Noppadon also shrugged off criticism that his plan to seek cabinet approval on applying for the reservoir and staircases leading to Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site was merely an attempt to reduce pressure from many quarters in Thai society, saying the foreign ministry would issue a White Paper to explain its handling of the issue.

Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said the case was being politicised against the current government.

"They're finding an issue to mobilise the people to rally against the government. If you doubt the accuracy of the demarcation, you can ask the Royal Thai Army or the Royal Thai Survey Department." said the premier.

Bangkok Senator Rosana Tositrakul said a group of senators would petition the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) on Tuesday opposing Cambodia's registration of Preah Vihear as a World Heritage site.

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