Hindu temple Thai, Cambodia tense military stand-off continues

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Kantharalak (Thailand), July 21 : Hundreds of Thai and Cambodian soldiers remained locked in a tense standoff at the ruins of an ancient Hindu temple here for a sixth straight day on Sunday, in a modern-day echo of the age-old clash of empires across Indochina.

The contentious 4.6-square-kilometre zone is in Si Sa Ket province, to the west of the ancient temple that Cambodia has successfully listed as a World Heritage site.

The centre of the dispute is the makeshift Wat Viharn temple that Cambodia built in the disputed area in 2001, despite opposition from Thailand.

Soldiers from both sides remain there on condition that all of them must be unarmed, the New York Times reported.

Outside the self-proclaimed "temple" but inside the 4.6-sq-km area, about 1,000-armed Thai and Cambodian soldiers have set up their camps.

Beyond the disputed area, into both nations' soil, some 4,000 more soldiers of both sides remain on standby with heavy artillery.

Tense moments have been reported when weapons were aimed within the temple complex. The prime ministers of both nations have exchanged stern notes, hardening their positions.

The Cambodian government has taken its complaint to the United Nations, saying that Thai troops have intruded onto its territory. The Thai Prime Minister, Samak Sundaravej, insists that the area is Thai.

Neither government wants a war, and there were plans for the countries' defence ministers to hold talks on Monday.

The conflict comes at a delicate time for both countries. Thailand has its slow-burning political crisis, and nationalism is looming as a factor in Cambodia's general election next Sunday as well.

But in Bangkok, political damage has already been done: the resignation of a cabinet minister, a censure debate in Parliament and accusations of national betrayal have further weakened a shaky, ineffective government.

ANI

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