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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 March 2008, 19:21 GMT
Heritage bid unites border rivals
Frances Harrison
Religious affairs reporter, BBC News

Preah Vihear Hindu temple
The dispute over Preah Vihear temple dates back a century
Thailand and Cambodia have agreed to lay aside a century-long dispute over a temple complex on their border.

Both countries want to push for United Nations World Heritage status for the site.

The Preah Vihear Hindu temple was built in the 11th and 12th centuries on the top of mountains that form the Thai-Cambodian border.

But the exact position of the border has been disputed, and the complex has one entrance in each country.

Thailand's Prime Minister has returned from a visit to Cambodia promising to back attempts to register the temple area, but not the surrounding land, as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Colonial-era dispute

Last year the UN ruled against world heritage status for the temple - some assumed this was because Thailand blocked Cambodia's application, although both countries deny this.

The dispute dates back a century.

A joint border demarcation team set up by the Kingdom of Siam and the French colonial authorities placed the temple inside Cambodia.

At the end of French colonial rule in Cambodia the Thais occupied the temple, with the result that the dispute landed in the International Court of Justice.

The Thais argued that the border was supposed to follow the watershed line of the mountains, in which case the temple would have been theirs.

The Thais also said they had never bothered to dispute the map because to access the temple from the Cambodian side required scaling a 500-metre (547-yeard) high cliff, so in practice they always had possession.

The court ruled in favour of Cambodia, but fighting with the Khmer Rouge meant it was only in 1998 that the temple opened to the public.

Now Cambodia has built a road up the cliff to reach the temple that has plagued relations with Thailand for so long.

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