CHIANGRAI TIMES – Cambodian Premier Hun Sen visited a disputed border area with Thailand Saturday, angering the neighboring nation amid an ongoing diplomatic spat.
Hun Sen began a tour of the area close to the ancient Preah Vihear temple at the centre of the land dispute by opening a school and giving supplies to villagers caught up in violence last year between the two countries’ troops.
“I have never asked for compensation. For me, it doesn’t matter about compensation,” said Hun Sen, referring to the destruction of a Cambodian market during a gun battle last April.
“They (the Thais) have invaded us and look down on us.”
Hun Sen, with his wife, Bun Rany, and several senior ministers, gave bags of rice, blankets and mosquito nets to villagers before proceeding in a heavily guarded convoy to visit the 11th-century temple ruins.
Cambodia and Thailand have been at loggerheads over their border for decades. Nationalist tensions spilled over into violence in July 2008, when the Preah Vihear temple was granted UNESCO World Heritage status.
Four soldiers were killed in clashes in the temple area in 2008 and three more in a gun battle last April. Smaller flare-ups continue to be reported between troops in the area.
During Hun Sen’s one-day visit he also accused Thailand of plotting to “invade” again.
“They are still keeping it in their minds to invade Cambodia and do not know when they will stop. The invaders have never left us, even though they can kill their own citizens,” he told the crowd.
More than 100 Thai protesters gathered on the Thai side of the border to protest against Hun Sen’s visit.
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said he was not concerned about Hun Sen’s trip as he had entrusted security on the border to the army.
“Soldiers are taking care of the border and the reports I have received show everything is normal,” he told reporters.
The Thai-Cambodia border has never been fully demarcated, partly because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia.
The World Court ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia, although its main entrance lies in Thailand. The exact boundary through the surrounding grounds remains in dispute.