Troops deny border accessto 'patriots'

Soldiers have prevented a group of Thai activists from entering a disputed border area in Buri Ram.

The group had intended to set up a village in the territory, which is claimed by Thailand and Cambodia.

About 100 members of a Thai patriot group, carrying belongings and food, yesterday headed to a forested area at Sap Yang village in tambon Bueng Charoen of Ban Kruat district.

The group, led by activists Veerapol Sopha and Meechai Jongkul, claim the disputed area belongs to Thais, and they wanted to set up a village there to establish a territorial presence.

Soldiers, however, blocked the group from entering while forestry officials guarded the area.

The group's move could create a misunderstanding which could harm national security, the soldiers said.

Mr Veerapol said his group was determined to protect national sovereignty. The area they intended to claim used to belong to Buri Ram residents, he said.

The locals had made use of the land until it fell into dispute and then they left for their own safety, he said.

After they were met by the soldiers, the activists set up camp at the perimeter of the area.

Meanwhile, a lunch meeting between the Thai and Cambodian defence ministers will go ahead today despite having been earlier postponed by Cambodia.

Cambodia was upset by reports that the venue for the meeting, which was originally to be held inside the disputed area around the Preah Vihear temple, was to change to a hotel in Surin province.

ACM Sukumpol said yesterday the meeting would take place near the Preah Vihear temple today as originally planned. The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 to award ownership of the Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia.

However, an area of 4.6 square kilometres surrounding the temple has remained a source of dispute and is claimed by both countries.

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Writer: Wassana Nanuam
Position: Reporter