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Thais Occupy All Three Ta Moan Temples

More than ten weeks after the beginning of a military standoff over Preah Vihear temple, Thai soldiers are firmly entrenched at three temples 100 kilometers to the west, though the situation remains quiet.

Cambodian troops patrol the Dangrek Mountains that hover above the temples, but they have no access to or control of any of the three temples.

“Nothing has changed yet,” said Maj. Chhim Yen, of Division 42, stationed at the base of the mountains. “We are still in the same place, and the Thai soldiers have not moved. We are waiting for a settlement from high-ranking [government officials].”

Thai soldiers regularly patrol the areas surrounding the temples, “and they keep a watch on Cambodian soldiers at a post in front of the temples,” he said.

Both sides claim ownership of the temples, but Cambodian soldiers say they had access prior to the July 15 occupation of Preah Vihear temple by Thai soldiers.

Several hundred Cambodian troops are stationed in tents and houses along the road to the border temples, living in stark conditions. However, there are no signs of military tension.

The Cambodian soldiers, armed with rockets and heavy machine guns, are in the process of constructing three houses at the base of the mountains with fresh-cut wood from the jungle.

Travel can take as much as one hour for the last 8 kilometers of travel from the main route to the base of the mountain, on a road run over with rivers and mud.

“We are determined in the face of abuse from the Thais,” Chhim Yen said.

Soldiers eat morning glory soup with small pieces of fish that are caught nearby, along with other wild animals, to supplement government rations.

Despite a lengthy deployment, no signs of illness have appeared, said 1st Lt. Im Pan, an army medic. Some soldiers have caught the flu and fever, he said, and others have contracted malaria.

No malaria fatalities have been reported. Military officials expect road improvements and the construction of a headquarters building to begin after the rainy season, to enable great military control of the area.