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Thailand Hopes to Reopen Tourism Access at Disputed Temple Site

PHNOM PENH: Thailand is requesting that Cambodia allow tourists to enter the Preah Vihear Temple through Thailand’s Si Sa Ket border following a decades long dispute over who owns the heritage site and the surrounding land. Since 2015, tourists have only been able to enter the site via the Cambodian access road.

The Preah Vihear Temple stands atop a cliff in the Dângrêk Mountains which form a natural border between the two countries. The temple, dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, was built by the Khmer Empire. The temple was ruled as belonging to Cambodia by the International Court of Justice in 1962. Since then, Thailand has heavily contested the decision and tensions have flared up through the decades.

Cambodian officials have reported that Thai officials requested for guests to be granted entry via the Si Sa Ket entrance accessible through Thailand this week, citing improved relations between the two countries over the last decade.

While Cambodia’s civil war kept the temple off limits to tourists for almost 30 years, it was finally reopened in 1998, where guests could enter from the Thai side. The boundary dispute was reignited in 2008 when the World Heritage Committee added Preah Vihear to its World Heritage Site list, which implied Cambodian ownership of the land surrounding the temple. Since then, Thai and Cambodian military forces have been stationed near the temple to protect “territorial integrity” and Cambodia has refused to allow entry to the temple via Thai territory.

Spokesperson for Ministry of Interior, Gen. Khieu Sopheak, said the government will discuss the matter following Thailand’s request.



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