WorldWide Religious News

All Articles

Progress in Thai-Cambodia talks
By Jonathan Head ("BBC," November 13, 2008)

Bangkok, Thailand - Thailand and Cambodia have pledged to begin placing markers along their common border and withdraw troops from around a disputed temple.

The move came in a meeting of foreign ministers aimed at preventing further clashes after four soldiers were killed in an exchange of fire last month.

The two countries have just finished three days of talks on the dispute.

But they say obstacles remain to settling sovereignty of the land around the temple, which lies inside Cambodia.

'99% successful'

After days of talks the language from both foreign ministers was so relaxed and conciliatory you would hardly have known their soldiers were shooting at each other less than a month ago.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong described the talks as a "big practical step forward", and his Thai counterpart Sompong Amornwiwat said they had achieved "99%" of what they had hoped.

In reality, though, all they agreed was to start the difficult task of hammering out a deal on the border, and to scale down the armed stand-off around the ancient Preah Vihear temple.

Troops will be withdrawn early next year, and in the meantime instructed to avoid further armed clashes.

And the two countries will begin marking out the border, which runs for nearly 800km (500 miles), much of it heavily mined.

They say they will make the stretch next to the temple their first priority - but this will certainly prove the hardest bit of border to mark, as both countries claim a 5-sq-km (1.9-sq-mile) patch of land around the temple, and each is working from different maps.

With nationalist feelings still running high over the temple, which in July was listed by Cambodia as a World Heritage Site, neither government is likely to back down over the claim.

Thailand's room for manoeuvre is even narrower, as every agreement it makes with Cambodia must now be approved by parliament.


Related Sections | Buddhism