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Page last updated at 15:28 GMT, Tuesday, 15 July 2008 16:28 UK

Thai troops 'cross into Cambodia'

Preah Vihear temple
The temple stands atop mountains on the Thai-Cambodian border

Thailand has denied claims by Cambodia that its troops violated Cambodian territory in a disputed border area near an ancient Hindu temple.

Cambodia says about 40 Thai soldiers crossed the frontier following the arrest of three Thai protestors near the site by Cambodian authorities.

The head of the national authority for the Preah Vihear temple said there was a stand-off, but had been no shooting.

Thai military officials said troops had been deployed in Thai territory nearby.

"We have every right to deploy troops here to protect our sovereignty," Maj-Gen Kanok Netakawesana, the regional Thai army commander, told the Associated Press.

Earlier, three Thai protesters were arrested for illegally crossing the border in an attempt to plant a Thai flag at the site. They were released hours later.

'Misunderstanding'

Hang Soth, the head of the Cambodian agency in charge of the temple site, said the Thai soldiers had positioned themselves at a Buddhist pagoda located on a mountain slope below and were now negotiating with the Cambodian authorities.

There is no trespassing by our soldiers
Seni Chittakasem
Governor of Si Sa Ket Province

"At first about 20 troops entered a pagoda in Cambodian territory," he told the AFP news agency.

"Later they increased their numbers to about 40," he said. "We don't understand yet why they came."

Hang Soth said that Cambodian troops in the area had been placed on alert but ordered not to open fire first, and that there had not been any shooting.

The governor of the neighbouring Thai province of Si Sa Ket, Seni Chittakasem, insisted there had been a misunderstanding.

"There is no trespassing by our soldiers," he said.

Decades-long dispute

The 11th Century Hindu temple and the land around it have been the subject of a border dispute for decades.

Map

The Preah Vihear temple was awarded to Cambodia by the International Court of Justice in 1962, forcing Thai troops who had occupied the area to withdraw.

It then became caught up in Cambodia's civil conflict, falling to the Khmer Rouge in 1975 and only being opened to the public in 1998.

Tension between the two countries has increased since Cambodia applied for World Heritage status for the temple, which was approved by Unesco earlier this month.

The application was endorsed by Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama, but this caused controversy in Thailand and he resigned last week after a court ruled he had breached the constitution.


SEE ALSO
Thailand foreign minister quits
10 Jul 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Tranquil temple at centre of a storm
22 May 08 |  Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Preah Vihear
22 May 08 |  In Pictures
Heritage bid unites border rivals
04 Mar 08 |  Special Reports
Country profile: Cambodia
17 Apr 08 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Thailand
28 Feb 08 |  Country profiles


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