Published: August 17, 2008
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodia and Thailand geared up Sunday for renewed border settlement talks after both sides ended a monthlong armed confrontation by withdrawing most of their troops from disputed territory around an ancient temple.
Thai and Cambodian foreign ministers are scheduled to meet in the Thai resort town of Hua Hin on Monday in a bid to find a lasting solution to a lingering border dispute that brought the two neighbors close to an armed clash.
The new meeting follows two inconclusive rounds of talks.
On July 28, the two nations’ foreign ministers agreed on a plan to withdraw their troops from disputed area near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple to reduce tension.
Both countries completed moving most of their troops from a nearby temple on Saturday, said Hang Soth, director-general of the Preah Vihear National Authority, a government agency managing the historic site.
He said the two sides are currently keeping only 10 soldiers from each side in the compound of the pagoda, which is located in a border area claimed by both countries.
“The tension has eased considerably. There is no more confrontation,” Hang Soth said Sunday, calling the troop withdrawals a “good process giving us hope” about the new talks.
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith confirmed Sunday that there were only 20 soldiers — 10 Cambodian and 10 Thai — in the grounds of the pagoda.
The standoff began on July 15 after UNESCO, the U.N.’s cultural agency, approved Cambodia’s application to have the Preah Vihear temple named a World Heritage Site. Both countries have long held claim to the temple, but the World Court awarded it to Cambodia in 1962.
About 800 troops from Cambodia and 400 from Thailand confronted each other in the area for a month.
Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej had backed Cambodia’s World Heritage site bid, sparking demonstrations by Thai anti-government protesters who claimed it would undermine Thailand’s claim to the surrounding area.
The protests left Samak politically vulnerable, and he sent troops to occupy the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara Buddhist pagoda compound adjacent to Preah Vihear to appease his critics. Cambodia responded with its own troop deployment.