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Neighbours to meet Monday over disputed temple


July 17, 2008

Thai-Cambodia Temple Feud:
Neighbours to meet Monday over disputed temple

Amid tensions over the disputed Thai-Cambodian border near a historic temple, the Thai Armed Forces and their Cambodian counterparts have agreed to hold urgent talks Monday to discuss the issue, according to a statement issued by the Thai Foreign Ministry on Wednesday and confirmed by Cambodia's information chief, reported Thai News Agency.

A special session of the General Border Committee (GBC) will be held on July 21 in Thailand's northeastern Sa Kaeo Province, "so that both sides can discuss issues together in a spirit of neighbourliness,"  the statement said.

The GBC, a bilateral mechanism co-chaired by the Thai and Cambodia ministers of defence, or their representatives, was scheduled to hold its next session in August.

Meanwhile, Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith told the Associated Press that Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej had ``a cordial and amicable phone conversation'' and delegates led by their defence ministers would meet Monday in Thailand to defuse tensions surrounding competing claims to land surrounding the historic Preah Vihear temple.

The neighbours also agreed that ``both sides should do the utmost to prevent anything from happening during period,'' Khieu Kanharith was quoted as saying.

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Thai military sources said about 250 Thai troops had been deployed near the Cambodian border following the arrest by Cambodia of three Thai nationals, including a Buddhist monk, who crossed into the disputed border area early Tuesday.

The trio were released later on Tuesday, but refused to leave the 4.6 square kilometre disputed area.

Thais had been warned not to travel to the vicinity of Preah Vihear temple on the Thai-Cambodian border.

Military sources said Cambodian troops had been reinforced near the area of overlapping claim.

The troop movements by both countries heightened tension on the border, and Thai authorities have restricted vehicles and media within a 10 km radius of the ancient temple.

Thai army commander Gen. Anupong Paochinda told reporters he has ordered the troops not to use force and urged that the two countries resolve the issue peacefully.

Both countries have historically laid claim to the Preah Vihear temple site, which sits on Cambodian soil but which can only be easily accessed from Thailand. The International Court of Justice awarded the ancient temple to Cambodia in 1962. 

The temple ruins was last week listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site but the exact border around the ruins remains in dispute.

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