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November 12, 2008

Thailand-Cambodia Border Dispute:
More time needed to resolve differences

Cambodian and Thai negotiators made little progress Tuesday in talks aimed at resolving a long-running and deadly border dispute, AFP quoted the leader of Cambodia's delegation as saying.

Officials from both sides met at a hotel in Cambodia's tourist hub Siem Reap to draw up an agenda for discussions between foreign ministers from the two countries, which are scheduled for Wednesday.

The meetings went five hours past schedule, and lead Cambodian negotiator Va Kimhong said both sides struggled to find points of agreement.

"We need more time and high-level decisions," Va Kimhong told reporters after meeting finished, adding, "what we have agreed is positive."

Both sides agreed to determine by December exactly where the border between their countries was drawn a century ago by French colonial officials, he said.

Negotiators also agreed that their countries would jointly remove landmines in the disputed area around the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, Va Kimhong added.

The three-day talks aim to end a four-month military stand-off and begin the process of hammering out competing territorial claims.

Shortly after earlier talks failed last month, troops from the two countries clashed on October 15 on disputed land near Cambodia's ancient Preah Vihear temple, killing one Thai and three Cambodians.

Two rounds of emergency talks after the October clashes made little progress, with both sides only agreeing not to fire on each other again.

The Cambodian government has since announced that it plans to double its military budget next year to 500 million dollars.

The Cambodian-Thai border has never been fully demarcated, in part because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia.

The most recent tensions began in July when the 11th century Khmer temple was awarded United Nations World Heritage status, rekindling a long-running disagreement over ownership of the surrounding land.

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