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Hun Sen Blasts Thais Over Temple Remarks

Prime Minsiter Hun Sen on Tuesday warned Thai officials to surrender their ambitions to “invade” Cambodian land near Preah Vihear temple.

The premier was referring to comments made by the Thai Foreign Ministry Monday that claimed a pagoda near Preah Vihear temple, where troops from both sides have amassed since July 2008, belonged to Thailand.

The military standoff along the border has seen several skirmishes over the past 18 months, killing at least seven soldiers.

“Thailand, you are invading my country, and Cambodia cannot tolerate your invasion,” Hun Sen said, speaking at a graduation ceremony at the National Institute of Education. “This is an invasion and an insult that we cannot tolerate.”

Parallel to the border confrontation, Thailand and Cambodia are embroiled in an ongoing diplomatic row over the appointed of ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic adviser to Hun Sen.

Both sides have withdrawn their ambassadors and other diplomats in the dispute.

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said Monday Thailand would not engage in “normal” relations between the two countries as long as Thaksin retained his position.

“Kasit Piromya should stop talking about conditions for the return of the ambassador to Cambodia,” Hun Sen said Tuesday. “The presence of the charge d’affaires is enough.”

In July 2008, Preah Vihear temple, which sits on a high escarpment overlooking the Cambodian plains, was granted Unesco World Heritage status under Cambodian management.

The approval sparked protests in Bangkok and led to the deployment of troops on both sides to areas around the border, including the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda, which is claimed by both sides.

A Thai court last week declared an agreement between Cambodia and Thailand that led to the listing of the temple as a World Heritage site should be canceled.

Borders and temples remain lightning rods for politics and nationalism on both sides.

In 2003, a Cambodian mob sacked and razed the Thai Embassy and other Thai businesses in a night of Phnom Penh rioting, after unconfirmed rumors a Thai actress had claimed the famed temples of Angkor Wat should belong to Thailand.