Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cambodia lambast Google Earth for locating temple in Thai soil

Phnom Penh - The Cambodian government sent a strongly-worded letter Friday to US internet giant Google, complaining that its online Google Earth map incorrectly places parts of the 11th century Preah Vihear temple in Thailand.

The letter comes ahead of an expected visit this weekend by Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen to the temple, which is situated on land claimed by both Cambodia and neighbouring Thailand.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan told the German Press Agency dpa he had sent an initial letter to Google three years ago asking it to remedy the problem, but had received no response.

Friday's letter called on Google to withdraw the map, calling its demarcation of the border "radically misleading and totally misguided" for showing "almost half of the temple in Thailand."

The International Court of Justice awarded Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia in 1962, but did not rule on nearby land that is claimed by both nations.

Google's map, which shows the yellow border line running through the contested temple, "is devoid of truth and reality and professionally irresponsible, if not pretentious," the letter stated.

Over the past 18 months Thai nationalists have used the Preah Vihear issue to stoke tensions, to which the visit by Hun Sen may add.

Phay Siphan said he had no official confirmation that Hun Sen would visit Preah Vihear temple at the weekend, but said people expected him to be there.

"Everyone is talking about it and expects to see [Hun Sen] on the top [of the temple] to pay his respects to Cambodian culture," Phay Siphan said late Friday.

He added that the area was "very stable, and there are no irregularities. Soldiers are chitchatting with each other."

The relationship between Cambodia and Thailand has been tense for more than a year with sporadic clashes between troops in the area around the temple.

Much of the border between the two countries has yet to be demarcated.

Diplomatic relations plunged to a new low in October after Phnom Penh appointed Thailand's fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra as a government adviser.

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