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US Voices Concern Over Border Dispute

The US is concerned about an ongoing border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia and is seeking a quick, peaceful solution to tensions between the two countries, a US State Department official said Tuesday.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Scot Marciel, who is the US ambassador to Asean, told reporters he planned next to stop in Thailand to encourage resolution to a 19-month military standoff that has left at least eight soldiers dead and dampened tourism and trade between both countries.

“We are good friends with both Cambodian and Thailand, and like most countries we’re concerned about the tension between the two countries,” Marciel told reporters in Phnom Penh, following three days of talks with leaders. “What we have said is that we hope that both governments, both leaders, will do what they can to try to reduce tensions to begin with and then to work to try to find a peaceful and rapid solution to this problem.”

Marciel’s visit coincided with a four-day trip by Prime Minister Hun Sen to the northern border region, where he encouraged soldiers to continue vigilance against a Thai “invasion.”

In the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Anlong Veng Tuesday, Hun Sen told soldiers he was considering filing an official complaint to the International Court of Justice at the Hague against Thai encroachment in Cambodia.

Cambodia and Thailand have failed on multiple occasions to bilaterally diffuse the border standoff, which began in July 2008 after Preah Vihear temple was given Unesco World Heritage status under Cambodian ownership.

Bangkok officially disputes a small strip of land near the border temple, while protesters have called for the 11th-Century temple to be handed over to Thailand. The temple has meanwhile become a source of national pride for Cambodians.

The dispute has added to Thailand’s political instability, which saw massive protests in 2008 and the ouster of a democratically elected regime.

Compounding the problem is an ongoing diplomatic row between the two neighbors over the appointment of ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra as economic adviser to Hun Sen.

Thaksin, ousted in a bloodless coup in 2006, is wanted on corruption charges in Thailand, and his appointment and subsequent appearances in Phnom Penh have rankled Bangkok.