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28 June 2009

Cambodia PM meets Thai minister as border tensions rise

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Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen hosted one of Thailand's deputy premiers at his home on Saturday in an attempt to diffuse a long-standing border row with friendly chat, AFP reported.

Hun Sen's wife cooked lunch for Suthep Thaugsuban and Thai Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon at his residence in southern Kandal province, Suthep said, after tensions recently escalated over the Unesco listing of an ancient temple.

Troops from both sides have built up on the Thai-Cambodia frontier in recent days near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, where seven soldiers have died in clashes since tensions flared last year.

Thailand's decision to ask world heritage body Unesco to reconsider listing the temple has angered Hun Sen, but despite claiming the issue would not be discussed Saturday, Suthep said they had agreed to reduce tensions at the site.

"Prime Minister Hun Sen asked me to convey the message to our Prime Minister Abhisit (Vejjajiva) and the Thai people that Cambodia will try to reduce tensions (along the border) to assist economic cooperation between the two countries," Suthep told reporters after returning to Thailand.

"We should let bygones be bygones, forget the nightmare of the past and look forward to a positive future for both countries," he said.

Suthep also announced that a dam would be constructed in Cambodia to channel water to Thailand's eastern seaboard.

Foreign ministry spokesman Kuoy Kong said the pair had simply had a "friendly talk".

Hun Sen vowed on Thursday to take a hard stance on the dispute over the temple, the ownership of which was awarded to Cambodia by the World Court in 1962, sparking decades of tensions.

Unrest flared in July 2008 after Unesco granted world heritage status to the ancient Khmer temple with its crumbling stone staircases and elegant carvings.


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