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Government Denies Claims of Border Protest

The government on Sunday denied claims made by Thai protesters that Cambodians had encroached on Thai soil near the temple of Preah Vihear, where soldiers on both sides have amassed since July 2008.

About 30 Thai protesters of the People’s Alliance for Democracy were allowed access to the temple on Sunday morning, as 5,000 demonstrators gathered on the Thai side of the border. The government dismissed claims by the protest leaders as “crazy.”

Thailand and Cambodia both have troops amassed around a disputed 4.6 square kilometers of land near Preah Vihear temple, in a standoff that has simmered over into battles on several occasions, killing a total seven soldiers.

Agence France-Presse quoted protest leader Veera Somkwamkid as saying Cambodia had allowed soldiers and citizens to stay in the disputed area and urging Thailand to reclaim the area around the temple.

Chhum Socheath, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, told VOA Khmer Sunday from Preah Vihear temple, Sunday’s demands were “unacceptable.”

“The statement announced by the Thai yellow-shirt protesters is a very crazy stance,” he said. “We have a clear treaty, convention and borderline. So we rule out this problem.”

Koy Kong, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the statements were baseless and unfair, and added that the protests came from only one political movement and would not therefore affect relations between the two governments.

The protesters had hoped to cross into Cambodia, which officials worried could further destabilize efforts to resolve the border crisis. However, Thai soldiers and police, as well as local villagers, prevented this.

“This shows the will of the Thai government, which has the intention of solving the border issue with Cambodia peacefully and within existing mechanisms,” he said.