The Thai government has renewed its demand for Phnom Penh to remove a Cambodian national flag flying over a temple on disputed land near the border, and is also now pressing for the temple itself to be dismantled.
The demand was included in a statement issued Monday by the Foreign Affairs Ministry amid reports of troop build-ups by both countries along the border.
"Thailand maintains that the 'Keo Sikha Kiri Svara' pagoda is situated on Thai territory, and demands that Cambodia remove both the pagoda and the Cambodian flag flying over the pagoda," the ministry said in its statement.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Sunday came out to assert Thailand's sovereignty over the 4.6 square kilometres of land on which the ancient Hindu temple of Preah Vihear is situated.
The statement prompted a fierce response from Phnom Penh, which labelled the demand as "insulting and unacceptable".
Both Thailand and Cambodia claim ownership of the border area.
The Foreign Ministry said Monday Bangkok was ready to settle the disputed border line through peaceful negotiations. However it would not accept Phnom Penh's assertion that the 1:200,000-scale map used by Cambodia forms the basis for determining the boundary.
Meanwhile, the Phnom Penh municipal court will continue its trial today of two Thais arrested by Cambodian soldiers on Dec 29 for alleged illegal entry into Cambodia and espionage.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongpakdee said the Phnom Penh court would continue hearing the case against Thai Patriots Network coordinator Veera Somkhwamkid and Ratree Pipatanapaiboon at about 7am. He did not know if the court would hand down a verdict right away.
A co-leader of the Thai Patriots Network, Chaiwat Sinsuwong, said yesterday the two Thais would insist they had been arrested on Thai territory.
He said he had a document from the Foreign Ministry showing that the ministry agreed with Cambodia on the coordinates where Mr Veera, Ms Ratree and five other Thais were arrested.
The document gave Cambodia the edge in its legal action against the Thais, he said.
Prime Minister Abhisit said yesterday the government tried to have Ms Ratree returned to Thailand at the same time as five other Thais on Jan23, but she chose to defend herself in a different way to her compatriots. Ms Ratree is the secretary of Mr Veera.
Mr Abhisit also said he was concerned that negative remarks by People's Alliance for Democracy figures about Cambodia could affect assistance for Mr Veera and Ms Ratree.
PAD supporters Samdin Lertbutr and Tainae Mungmajon, who were arrested with Mr Veera and Ms Ratree, filed a lawsuit with the Criminal Court yesterday accusing the prime minister, his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon of malfeasance and of taking actions that might cause the loss of Thai territory.
The lawsuit states armed Cambodian troops arrested their group of seven Thais on Thai territory in Ban Nong Jan of Khok Sung district, Sa Kaeo, on Dec 29.
Mr Abhisit, Mr Suthep, Mr Kasit and Gen Prawit took no action against Cambodia at the time and told the media the group had travelled a kilometre into Cambodian territory.
The ministers also allowed the Cambodian court judge to convict the seven as illegal immigrants, which was tantamount to accepting Cambodian sovereignty over the area in Ban Nong Jan, the two men told the court in their application.
The Criminal Court will hold a preliminary examination of the case on May21.