Thailand and Cambodia consider reopening Preah Vihear temple to boost tourism
Anticipation is growing among Thais for the reopening of the Preah Vihear temple ruins in Si Sa Ket after a 15-year suspension to boost tourism and promote peace dialogue with Cambodia. The temple has been inaccessible from Si Sa Ket’s Kantharalak district since 2008 due to border disputes between the two countries.
Soldiers from both Thailand and Cambodia remain stationed along the border in Si Sa Ket, Ubon Ratchathani, and Surin. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2013 called for the withdrawal of armed forces from the temple ruins on the Cambodian side but allowed border patrol forces on the outer frontiers. Despite the ICJ resolution urging joint development of the area surrounding the Preah Vihear temple, no progress has been made since the 2011 ceasefire.
The Preah Vihear temple, once a popular tourist spot, has been inaccessible from Thai territory for over a decade. Local sources report numerous attempts by Thailand to collaborate with Cambodia on reopening tourism around the temple complex. However, these requests have been rejected, with the Cambodian government stating that only Prime Minister Hun Sen can make such decisions.
Both Thai and Cambodian soldiers continue to be deployed in the area surrounding the temple under the “5+5 Policy,” which requires five officers from each country to be stationed at the frontier’s coordination point. This policy aims to prevent misunderstandings and promote communication between the two sides.
Despite the military presence, Thai and Cambodian soldiers in the area have been engaging in recreational activities together, such as playing volleyball, rattan ball, and petanque. Officers from both sides also socialise over dinner, and their supervisors maintain contact, reported Bangkok Post.
Cambodian military leaders have suggested that the situation may continue as long as the territorial dispute remains unresolved. Thai and Cambodian locals have encroached on the disputed area multiple times, with officers attempting to negotiate and remove them from the area.
A potential solution to ease the border conflict involves allowing tourists to access the Preah Vihear temple from Si Sa Ket and permitting Cambodian tourists to enter Pha Mor E-Daeng in Khao Phra Viharn National Park. The source added…
“If Cambodia allows access to the temple from Thailand’s side, it would benefit tourists and attract more people to visit. [Thailand and Cambodia] should join hands to promote tourism.”
The Preah Vihear temple, built on a cliff between the 9th and 11th centuries as a dedication to the Hindu God Shiva, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008. The ICJ has urged Cambodia and Thailand to work together to protect the site and find a joint solution to the disputed area.
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