UN Security Council to take up Thailand-Cambodia border dispute

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Bangkok, Jul 24 (UNI) The UN Security Council will take up border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia linked to a 900-year-old Hindu temple, Thailand's envoy to the world body said today.

''I have been informed that the UN has included Preah Vihear on the emergency agenda to be discussed at the Security Council meeting tomorrow,'' Thai Ambassador to the United Nations Don Pramudwinai said.

The annual meeting of Southeast Asian foreign ministers this week in Singapore turned down Cambodia's plea to set up an ASEAN panel to look into the issue.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concern over the recent diplomatic and military tension between the two South-East Asian neighbours over the temple.

''The Secretary-General calls for restraint on both sides and hopes that this matter can be resolved peacefully and by diplomatic means in the context of the excellent relations that traditionally exist between the two countries,'' a UN spokesman said yesterday in New York.

Talks this week in Thailand between the Thai defence forces chief and the Cambodian defence minister have failed to ease the Thai-Cambodian border military standoff over the Preah Vihear temple on the Thai-Cambodian border.

Awarded to Cambodia by the International Court of Justice in 1962, the Shiva temple built by Cambodia's ancient Khmer rulers has been in the eye of a diplomatic storm since anti-government protestors in Bangkok accused Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's government of surrendering sovereignty over a slice of Thai territory near the temple.

The dispute centers on a 4.6-sq km strip near the temple which is claimed by both the countries.

The temple issue evokes strong nationalistic passions in Thailand and bilateral tensions escalated when Cambodian troops detained a group of Thai nationals who crossed the border to 'reclaim' the temple.

Thai villagers near the disputed area have begun arms training in anticipation of a military clash and members of the Thai Senate Foreign Affairs Committee visited the area yesterday.

However, the Thai prime minister today said the dispute would blow over and attributed it to Cambodian domestic politics linked to the upcoming general election in the neighbouring country this Sunday.

''I think the dispute will ease and can be resolved more easily through negotiations after the election,'' Mr Samak said.

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