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Riot Police Deployed to Guard Thai Embassy

Phnom Penh dispatched extra riot police to protect the Thai Embassy in the capital Thursday, following reports of demonstrations over Preah Vihear temple.

More than 20 police in green tactical uniforms, armed with rifles and pistols, stood guard along the embassy's perimeter and in front of its gates on Norodom Boulevard Thursday afternoon.

Phnom Penh Police Chief Touch Naroth said the extra police were deployed at the request of the embassy.

The Unesco's World Heritage Committee is to decide on the temple's protection status during meetings underway in Canada, but the Thai government this week pulled its endorsement of the application.

A 1962 International Court decision claimed the temple belongs to Cambodia, but the surrounding borderlands are still under dispute, and Thai opposition groups have held protests of an initial Thai government endorsement of Cambodia's bid.

"This is also our duty, to safeguard this embassy," Touch Naroth said. "We learned that some NGO plans to hold a demonstration at the Thai Embassy, so we deployed our police, because we experienced the government having to compensate the Thai government after riots destroyed the Thai Embassy."

Anti-Thai demonstrations in 2003 led to the sacking and burning of the Thai Embassy and other Thai businesses in Phnom Penh, following unsubstantiated rumors that a Thai actress claimed Angkor Wat belonged to Thailand.

"The police will be deployed until safety is fully guaranteed," Touch Naroth said.

One policeman at the embassy said Thursday the embassy was guarded 24 hours per day.

Phnom Penh officials meanwhile denied a request for a local organization to hold a demonstration in Phnom Penh.

The National Culture and Moral Center, which delivered a letter of support for the temple's World Heritage bid to the Council of Ministers Thursday, will postpone a demonstration, due to the election period, Po Samnang, president of the group, said.

The center supports the efforts of the government on Preah Vihear issues, the letter to the Council of Ministers said, and opposes any attempt of Thai "extremists" who do not respect an international court ruling giving the temple to Cambodia.

Po Samnang told reporters Thursday his group had applied to hold demonstrations, but the municipality forbid them.

Po Samnang said Thursday he would put himself legally and personally responsible for demonstrators, to ensure no rioting took place.

The National Culture and Moral Center was started in 1992, he said, and has no political affiliations.