Saturday, August 02, 2008

Cambodia's first lady visits disputed border area

By Puy Kea
PHNOM PENH, Aug. 1 KYODO -- Cambodia's first lady on Friday led a huge delegation to visit an ancient temple on Cambodia's tense border with Thailand, amid an ongoing military standoff between the two countries in an area adjacent to the temple. Bun Rany, wife of Prime Minister Hun Sen, was accompanied to the temple of Preah Vihear by spouses of other government leaders and more than 1,000 others, including military and government officials, police, bodyguards, civilians and Buddhist monks, said Hang Soth, director general of National Authority for Preah Vihear.
Hang Soth told Kyodo News by telephone that the two-hour ''religious event'' at the temple, which is perched atop a 600-meter cliff in the Dangrek Mountains , was dedicated to peace and stability. He said the visitors prayed for nonviolence and for the departure of some 400 Thai troops from adjacent land that Cambodia claims as its own. Bun Rany presented mosquito nets, medical supplies, instant noodles and canned fish to soldiers and police stationed in the Preah Vihear area and to residents of the area, the official said.
She also stopped briefly at Keo Sikha Kiri Svara Pagoda, the hotspot of the military standoff between Cambodia and Thailand , another military official said. The visit by Hun Sen's spouse comes nearly a month after Preah Vihear temple was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site over Thailand 's objections. The military standoff between the two countries began July 15 after Cambodia detained three Thai activists who Cambodia authorities allege illegally crossed into Cambodian territory.
Since then, both Thailand and Cambodia have been building up their forces in the area adjacent to Preah Vihear. Thailand and Cambodia both claim ownership of a 4.6-square-kilometer area adjacent to Preah Vihear temple, which was built between the mid-10th and early 12th centuries and dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. In talks last Monday, the foreign ministers of the two countries agreed in principle on redeployment of troops out of the disputed area and concurred that both countries ''should exercise utmost restraint to avoid the possibility of armed confrontation, so that the current problem may be settled through peaceful means.'' But the two sides' troops have not yet been withdrawn.
KyodoAugust 01, 2008