>Cambodia, Thailand to meet on border military issue

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A Cambodian soldier, left, speaks to Thai soldiers at a Cambodian Buddhist temple near Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Thursday, July 17, 2008. Cambodia and Thailand escalated their troop buildup Thursday at disputed territory near the historic border temple despite their agreement to hold talks next week to defuse the tensions, a Cambodian general said.

(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

PHNOM PENH, July 17 (Xinhua) — Cambodian and Thai governments will have a top-level meeting on July 21 in Thai province of Sa Keaw near the border to solve the problem of Thai troops deployment at a Buddhist pagoda inside Cambodia, a senior Cambodian official said here Thursday.

The General Border Committees (GBC) from both countries will meet to find the solution, as Thai troops deployment at the Preah Vihear Pagoda, about 200 meters from the Preah Vihear Temple, entered its third day, Khieu Kahnarith, Cambodian Information Minister and government spokesman, told reporters at a press conference inside his ministry.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense Tea Banh will lead the Cambodian delegation, while the Thai side might be headed by Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, who is also National Defense Minister, or other representatives, he said.

“We want the situation to return to the status prior to July 15,” he said, adding that Thai troops there had increased to around 400.

“Cambodian troops have the similar number. We don’t want to deploy more troops,” he said.

“We are not weak but we want to have stable situation,” he said.

Thai troops claimed that they stationed on disputed areas at the pagoda next to the Preah Vihear Temple, said the minister.

“If Thai troops move further inside, they will invade Cambodia and the difficulty of the situation for both countries will be out of our estimation,” he said.

Meanwhile Thursday, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen sent an official letter in English to his Thai counterpart, saying that “unfortunately, as of July 17, 2008, the situation is worsening due to the continuing increase in the numbers of Thai military inside and around the area of the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara Pagoda (namely the Preah Vihear Pagoda) and the presence of Thai protesters.”

“The deteriorating situation is very bad for the relations between our two countries, and therefore, I would like to ask Your Excellency to take measures to ease the tensions and order the Thai troops to withdraw from the areas of the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara Pagoda near the Preah Vihear Temple,” said the premier.

These troops have encroached on Cambodian territory on July 15,2008 and have since increased in the numbers rather withdraw, he said.

“I was very pleased to talk with you on the telephone on the night of July 16, 2008. It is important that we, representatives of our two states, have still reaffirmed the ongoing good neighborly relations and long-lasting cooperation, so that we could resolve the problem through negotiations as well as setting the meeting schedule between Your Excellency and His Excellency Tea Banh on July 21, 2008,” Hun Sen said in the letter.

Earlier Tuesday, three Thai protesters were arrested for jumping an immigration checkpoint to reach the Preah Vihear Temple. Thai troops then came to fetch them, thus triggering face off with Cambodian military there.

The protesters trespassed the border with intention to reclaim the 11-century classic Khmer-style temple, which the International Court of Justice awarded, together with the land it occupies, to Cambodia in 1962. The decision has rankled the Thais ever since.

The temple straddles the Thai-Cambodian border atop the Dangrek Mountain and was listed as a World Heritage Site on July 7 by the UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee.

Editor: Jiang Yuxia
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