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FMs agree to consider troop pullback


July 29, 2008

Thai-Cambodia Border Talks:
FMs agree to consider troop pullback

Cambodia and Thailand agreed on Monday to consider pulling troops out of disputed land near an ancient temple, but did not commit to any firm steps to end a two-week military standoff, reported AFP.

After about 12 hours of talks, foreign ministers from both countries said they would ask their governments to redeploy the thousands of soldiers stationed around a small patch of land near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple.

The ruins of the Khmer temple, which sits on a mountaintop overlooking the jungle, belong to Cambodia, but the most practical entrance begins at the foot of a mountain in Thailand. Both sides claim some of the surrounding territory.

"We agreed to ask our governments to redeploy the troops," Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters, adding that details would be discussed in future talks.

"We cannot resolve this problem at one meeting. It will require more meetings," he said. "We will exercise maximum restraint and avoid the use of armed force."

For the Thai side, Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag said: "The redeployment will only take place once the Thai government approves."

Thailand Hote

Neither side pledged any firm goals for moving the troops, and no date was set for their next meeting.

But both countries insisted they would resolve the dispute peacefully, and proposed a series of steps to end the conflict, including a scheme to remove landmines that litter the area so the border could be demarcated.

"Both sides have the will to resolve the problems bilaterally and peacefully," Hor Namhong said.

Cambodian and Thai officials said the meeting on Monday was the first step in what would likely be protracted negotiations to end a dispute that has simmered for decades.

The talks took place at an upmarket hotel in the Cambodian tourist town of Siem Reap, whose name translates as "Thailand defeated" - a legacy of ancient conflicts between the neighbours.

The town is a hub of Thai investment in Cambodia, with Thailand's well-developed tourism industry tapping into the international appeal of the nearby Angkor Wat ruins.

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