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Thai-Cambodia troops withdraw from second disputed temple

 

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August 7, 2008

Thai-Cambodia troops withdraw from second disputed temple
Cambodian and Thai officials said Wednesday that tensions over a second disputed ruin on their joint border had been resolved and troops had returned to their stations, reported AFP.

Thailand and Cambodia began trading barbs on Sunday over the Ta Muen Thom ruins, which are about 130 kilometres (80 miles) west of the better known Preah Vihear temple and are currently under Thai control.

Officials from Cambodia said Thai soldiers had prevented their troops from entering the temple compound for religious worship, while Thailand’s military chief demanded that Cambodia withdraw its forces from near the area.

“In recent days, Thai troops moved to the temple and banned our troops from entering there,” said Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh.

“But we have already resolved the problem with each other. It is okay now. All (Cambodian and Thai) troops withdrew to their original bases.”

Thailand Hote
Tea Banh, however, maintained that Ta Muen Thom belonged to Cambodia.
Major General Kanon Netrakavaesana, the commander of Thailand’s border task force, said the atmosphere at the temple had eased.

“All soldiers from Thailand and Cambodia, who met at the border next to the temple, have both stepped back since late Tuesday afternoon, he told AFP.

Military and border officials from Thailand have denied they increased their troop presence at Ta Muen Thom, saying there had been a paramilitary presence there for almost a decade.

Tensions between the neighbours flared last month when Preah Vihear temple, which the World Court has ruled belongs to Cambodia, was listed as a UN heritage site, angering nationalists in Thailand who still regard it as Thai.

On July 15, three Thais were arrested in the area by Cambodian forces, sparking the deployment of about 1,000 Thai and Cambodian troops on a small patch of disputed land near the temple.

Thailand’s cabinet agreed in principle Tuesday to pull back some troops from near the Preah Vihear temple, although no timescale was laid out.

“We have not received an order from our superiors. We’ll move when we have that order,” Kanon said.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a speech broadcast on national radio that although a war could have erupted over Preah Vihear, his country was committed to resolving the dispute peacefully.

“If the prime minister were not Prime Minister Hun Sen, a Cambodian-Thai war would have happened,” he said.

But he said Cambodia would resolve the problem through “cooperation and friendly negotiations, because there is a misunderstanding about the border”.

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