>Prime Minister calls for peaceful resolution to border standoff

>PM Hun Sen making a speech.

The Mekong Times with agencies

Cambodia’s prime minister reiterated his call for a peaceful solution to a border dispute with Thailand, warning yesterday that the economies of both countries would suffer if the conflict erupts into a full-scale war.
In a speech broadcast on state radio, Hun Sen said talks between Cambodian and Thai Foreign Ministers Hor Namhong and Taj Bunnag would be held in the Thai province of Hua Hin, where Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej has a sea-side palace.
“Hor Namhong will meet his Thai counterpart on August 18. Hor Namhong will then pay a courtesy visit to the Thai king,” Hun Sen said at a rice farming ceremony in the south-western province of Kampong Speu, 40km west of the capital. “Both countries must narrow the conflict and expand friendship and cooperation,” he added.
Thai and Cambodian troops have been facing off along their shared border for three weeks over disputed territory – first near Preah Vihear temple and then at Ta Moan Thom temple.
Hun Sen’s comments came as the confrontation at Ta Moan Thom appeared to be easing, with both sides pulling back their soldiers.
“We cannot just carve out Thailand to put it in the sky or move our land away,” Hun Sen said in a two-hour speech yesterday. “We will coexist for tens of thousands of years to come.”
“At the pagoda we ask that only Buddhist nuns, laymen and Buddhist monks stay – not troops from either side.”
“I would like to respectfully inform the Thai king that if any other Cambodian except Hun Sen was prime minister, there would be war on the border since July 15 … but not me.”
He also criticized leaflets calling for a Cambodian boycott of Thai goods in response to Thailand’s alleged encroachment onto Cambodian territory near Preah Vihear.
“A border dispute should not turn the two countries into enemies in all domains,” he said. “That is very dangerous.”
He said he was not being “soft,” but warned that if war broke out “the two countries will only stand to lose” in terms of trade and economic cooperation.
“Fighting is easy – it’s ending the fight that is difficult.”
The dispute surrounding the 13th century Ta Moan Thom temple started when Cambodian officials said some 70 Thai soldiers occupied the temple site last week and prevented Cambodian troops from entering. Thai military officials countered that their troops had been in the area for years.
Agreement for a troop withdrawal from the grounds of the temple was reached late Tuesday during a meeting between officials from the two countries, said Maj. Ho Bunthy, a Cambodian army commander in the area.
The sanctuary is located several hundred miles west of Preah Vihear temple, where Cambodian and Thai soldiers have been locked in a standoff for three weeks in a dispute over nearby territory.
About 800 troops from Cambodia and 400 from Thailand remain in the Preah Vihear area despite a tentative agreement reached by foreign ministers last week to redeploy them in an effort to ease tensions.
In Thailand, Lt. Gen. Nipat Thonglek, the chief of military border affairs, said yesterday that his government would set up a committee to consider redeploying its troops from the border area near Preah Vihear temple.
He said the decision was made at a Thai Cabinet meeting Tuesday. He stressed redeployment of troops must be conducted in a manner appropriate with the military’s “duty to protect the sovereignty” of Thailand.
Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith welcomed the announcement as “good news.”
“The sooner the redeployment takes place, the better,” he said.
Thailand and Cambodia sent troops to the border area after UNESCO approved Cambodia’s application to have the Preah Vihear temple complex named a World Heritage Site. Some Thai activists say the temple’s new status will jeopardize their country’s claims to land next to the site.

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