The International Court of Justice awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, but wrangling continues over 1.8 square miles (4.6 square kilometers) of land that provides access to the site.
The standoff, which began July 15 after UNESCO named the temple a World Heritage Site, has soldiers from both sides positioned near Preah Vihear; and many Thais and Cambodians praying for peace
Cambodian military police keep an eye on Buddhist monks at Preah Vihear on August 1, 2008. "We want to preserve the status quo, of before July 15, [which means] there are no soldiers in the disputed area," said a Cambodian embassy official in Washington, D.C.
He added that Cambodia was waiting for the Thai government to begin withdrawal of troops, as agreed in bilateral meetings last week. "How long we can wait I don't know."
Longtime ruler Hun Sen won a general election last week, boosted by his tough tactics in the temple dispute.
Meanwhile Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, who supported Cambodia's UNESCO bid for the site, faces the ire of Thai nationalists who consider the temple part of their own nation!
International politics have local relevance for people living in communities surrounding the Preah Vihear temple.
During Cambodia's civil war Preah Vihear was used as a base by the Khmer Rouge. Landmines are still common in the area, though a Thai official said the two nations pledged last week to work together to remove them.
Passions erupt as a villager hurls a stick at nationalist protestors in the Thai community of Kantharalak.
On July 17 villagers and police prevented nationalists from gathering at the Preah Vihear temple.
Damrong Kraikruan, Charge d'Affaires at the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington, D.C., said hope for peace sprang from a meeting of Thai and Cambodian officials last week. "We agreed to redeploy troops from the area, on both sides, and decrease tensions," he said.
Tensions have eased, and the Thai cabinet approved a troop pullback on August 5. But soldiers remain on site and the longstanding land dispute appears far from finalized.
In fact, a similar standoff may be taking shape on another temple ground, Ta Moan Thom, located 80 miles (130 kilometers) away along the nations' shared border.
Credit: National Geographic