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Cambodia Refuses To Lower Flag from Contentious Pagoda

A Cambodian flag flutters near an entrance gate to Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple on the Cambodian-Thai- border in Preah Vihear province.

Cambodia says it will not remove its flag from a pagoda on a disputed piece of land near Preah Vihear temple, despite a request from Thailand.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement it would not comply with a request from Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to remove the flag from Wat Keo Siha Kiri Svara.

Both sides claim the land surrounding the pagoda, which was also at the center of a prolonged military standoff that began in July 2008 and only ended a few months ago.

The Foreign Ministry called the “demand” for the removal of the flag “insulting” and said recent Thai military exercises near the border were “clearly provocative.”

“Cambodia reserves its legitimate rights to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the statement said.

The latest row follows the removal of a controversial placard on the border purporting to mark the place where “Thai troops invaded Cambodia” in July 2008 and withdrew on Dec. 1, 2010. That sign has been replaced with one that says, “Here! Is Cambodia.”

Cambodia lays claim to the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda via turn of the century maps and conventions between France and Siam, the former name for Thailand. The pagoda was built by Cambodians in 1998 on land claimed by Cambodia. For its part, Thailand has said in the past it disputes the maps used by Cambodia and demarks the border according to its own surveys.

Foreign ministers from both countries are slated to meet in Siem Reap next week for a bilateral meeting on security and cooperation.