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Thai-Cambodia border dispute:Troops withdrawals begin


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August 17, 2008

Thai-Cambodia border dispute:Troops withdrawals begin
After about one month of a military standoff at the disputed territory around the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, Thailand and neighbouring Cambodia have started withdrawing their troops in a bid to ease tensions ahead of their foreign ministers' meeting next week, Thai News Agency reported.

Without disclosing the exact number of Thai troops pulling out from the territory contested by both countries, a Thai foreign ministry spokesman said Saturday that it was up to the military to decide how many soldiers should be withdrawn from the area.

Citing an earlier Thai cabinet resolution that the troop withdrawal should not affect the country's capability in protecting its sovereignty, the spokesman said the Thai military would be responsible for the ongoing withdrawal.

Tensions at the ancient temple escalated after UNESCO early last month named the temple as World Heritage site to Cambodia. The International Court of Justice in 1962 ruled that the temple belongs to Cambodia, but that the surrounding area remains in dispute between the two countries.

Reports from Cambodia quoted Deputy Defense Minister General Neang Paht as saying that most troops would leave on Saturday evening.

Gen Neang Paht said there would be around 10 or 20 soldiers from each side remaining posted there.

The troop withdrawal followed the first meeting of Thai Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag and his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong held in the Cambodian province of Siem Reap on July 28.

Besides agreeing to the troop redeployment, both sides also agreed to a de-mining survey program and border demarcation by the Joint Boundary Commission.

The two foreign ministers are scheduled to meet for a second time in the Thai resort town of Hua Hin on Tuesday.

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