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January 27, 2009

Thailand-Cambodia Border Dispute:
Talks set for early February

Visiting Thai Foreign Affairs Minister Kasit Piromya and Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told a joint press conference on Monday announcing that they had agreed to resolve their two countries' border dispute through peaceful means.

"The demarcation of the border at Preah Vihear temple and discussions over  troops is an urgent priority," Thai News Agency quoted Hor Namhong as telling a joint press conference after the meeting.

"Both sides -- Cambodia and Thailand -- agreed to set a date from February 2 to 4 in which the joint border commission will start to demarcate territory."

Resolution of the long simmering border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia is expected to make headway next month when the  Thai-Cambodian Joint Border Committee (JBC) plans to meet.

Thai Defence Minister Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan is scheduled to visit Phnom Penh on February 6, his first official visit to the Cambodian capital after assuming the post in December.

Regarding troop deployment by the two neighbouring countries at a disputed area near the ancient Preah Vihear temple, Hor Namhong said Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Gen. Tea Banh will discuss the matter with Gen. Prawit during the latter's visit.

Also, the Thai-Cambodian JBC is scheduled to discuss technical and overlapped territorial waters problems in Thailand between February 2-4, while another meeting is to be held in March after the Thai Cabinet approves the list of Thai delegates attending the meeting, according to Hor Namhong.

Presently, technicians are searching for the remaining 25 border markers of the total 73, he said.

Tensions between the two countries flared in July last year when Preah Vihear was awarded UN World Heritage status. Although the International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that it belonged to Cambodia, the most accessible entrance is in Thailand's northeastern province of Si Sa Ket.

Hor Namhong said he had also discussed with his Thai counterpart the status of the ancient Khmer artefacts seized earlier by Thai customs officials, asking Thailand when they could be returned to Phnom Penh.

Kasit, who arrived in Cambodia on Sunday for a two-day official visit, his first after having taken up the post, said the two countries would cooperate on solving their immediate problems in order to maintain the long, warm relations between peoples of the two countries.

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