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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Cambodia calls for 15 border checkpoints

Thais suspect ulterior motive in disputed area

The Cambodian military has proposed 15 joint border checkpoints be set up in the 4.6-square-kilometre area near Preah Vihear temple also claimed by Thailand, a military source said.

The idea has been floated to the Thai military through Indonesia, as the incumbent revolving chair of Asean, and the Thai Foreign Ministry, but details have yet to be discussed, the source said.

The proposed joint border checkpoints, which would be overseen by observers from Indonesia, did not include one at Keo Sikha Kiri Savara pagoda, a temple in the disputed area claimed by Cambodia, the source said.

Most of the proposed checkpoints would be located in areas supervised by Thai troops, including Phu Makhua mountain, the source said.

The source said the proposal would put Cambodia at an advantage and there could be an ulterior motive for the suggestion.

There are more Thai troops stationed in the 4.6-square-kilometre disputed area than Cambodian soldiers.

Cambodian soldiers will push for the setting up of the checkpoints during a visit to the border area by Indonesia, the source said.

The details, however, will be thrashed out at a meeting of the Thai-Cambodia General Border Committee in Indonesia on April 7-8.

The meeting will be co-chaired by Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon and his Cambodian counterpart, Tea Banh.

The proposal came after the Suranaree task force halted construction of a two-kilometre-long road stretching from Pha Mor I Dang cliff to the ancient Sa Trao reservoir and stairway of the Preah Vihear temple.

Thai soldiers had completed 70% of the road when border clashes on Feb 4 brought construction to a halt.

They resumed building the road on March 4, prompting Cambodian soldiers to send a letter protesting against the construction.

Cambodian soldiers last week threatened to open fire if Thai soldiers continued, so the roadworks were suspended, the source said.

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