The Cambodian flags flies proudly over Preah Vihear
The Preah Vihear
situation has calmed down considerably in recent days and most of the Cambodian and Thai soldiers that were occupying the pagoda complex near the temple have moved out and away from the immediate area, lessening tensions and allowing everyone to take a deep breath. They've even filled in the trenches they'd dug. With this cooling-off period has come more talks between the two sides, no major decisions yet, but at least there's sensible dialogue. There's no guarantee that it'll be resolved quickly but at least the nationalism drums have stopped banging and the two sides can hopefully resolve it without soldiers on both sides looking down the barrels of each other's guns. The temple belongs to Cambodia. Full stop. The surrounding area is what's in dispute and that needs to be managed jointly. Full stop. How they do that remains to be seen, but it may need the help of outside nations to facilitate this no-man's land. As for temples like Ta Muen Thom that straddle the 800km border elsewhere, well, there's lots more talking to be done about those. The definitive border between the two countries has been fluid to say the least for far too long and its something that needs to be resolved, but that will take goodwill and compromise on both sides and so far there's not been too much of that in the air. It's not an easy one to solve, I wish them good luck. As for access to Preah Vihear, the easy way in via Thailand will remain closed until the border issue there is resolved. Access from the Cambodian side has remained open throughout although with heavily-armed soldiers from both sides swarming around it wasn't such a good idea to visit, though hundreds have done so each day throughout the dispute without any problem. Hun Sen has ordered improved roads to the temple to the Cambodian side in a clear push to raise the profile of this new World Heritage site, though work on the 4km road up the side of the mountain has been halted this week due to heavy rains.
In other news, the 5-times-a-week Mekong Times has halted production after about six months of struggling to get itself a foothold in the media dog-fight in Cambodia, whilst the brand new daily Phnom Penh Post failed to arrive at the newstands yesterday after alleged problems at the printers. Not something a new paper can afford to happen too often! Oh, and as I type this, it's raining again outside...
A common sight in Phnom Penh - afternoon downpours and the construction of yet another tall building