>Interim pact on settling border dispute

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Thailand’s Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag (R) walks with his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong before a meeting at a hotel in Thailand’s Phetchaburi province, about 120 km (75 miles) south of Bangkok, August 19, 2008. The two ministers held a two-day meeting to resolve disputes over the 900 year-old Hindu temple.

REUTERS/Handout (THAILAND)

Informal ministerial talks prove fruitful

ACHARA ASHAYAGACHAT

PHETCHABURI : Thailand and Cambodia yesterday agreed to an interim agreement to solve the row over the disputed border area surrounding the Preah Vihear temple.

The agreement was reached in the second round of informal talks between the Thai and Cambodian foreign ministers, Tej Bunnag and Hor Namhong, in Cha-am district.

The main thrust of the interim agreement is that the Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) should be a key mechanism in resolving the problem, and for more troops to be withdrawn from the overlapping area between Kantharalak district in Si Sa Ket and the Cambodian province of Preah Vihear.

It also pledges efforts to remove landmines in the area.

The interim agreement requires approval from both governments.

It will tabled for the cabinet next week, after which parliamentary approval will also be required, Mr Tej said.

After completing this process, the JBC is expected to hold talks in October with Manaspas Xuto, who is adviser to the foreign minister.

The JBC will identify the border area to be demarcated, with assistance from legal experts.

The two ministers did not go into detail as to how many more soldiers will be moved out of the disputed area.

This will be settled at a meeting of the Regional Border Committee on Aug 29 and 30 in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

The Thai delegrationwill be headed by Second Army commander Lt-Get Sujit Sitthiprapa and the Cambodian side by Deputy Defence Minister Gen Neang Phat and Gen Chea Mon, commander of the Cambodian Fourth Army Region.

Thailand and Cambodia completed the first troop reduction on Sunday.

Hor Namhong was optimistic about settling the problem with Thailand as the two countries showed political willingness to put an end to the row.

But he admitted settling the issue would take more time.

He promised to withdraw the complaint on the border dispute with Thailand from the United Nations Security Council soon and said Preah Vihear will be reopened for tourists after the situation returns to normal.

The Cambodian government decided not to complain to the UN agency after most council members and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) made clear their position that the border problem should be resolved through bilateral discussions.

The Cambodian minister was granted an audience with His Majesty the King for one hour at Klai Kangwon Palace in Hua Hin in Prachuap Khiri Khan.

A group of Dharmayatra led by Samarn Sri-ngam also rallied in front of the meeting venue, holding banners bearing slogans such as ”Kick out the Cambodians” and ”Get back Preah Vihear”, which is called Khao Phra Viharn in Thailand.

The group also lodged a petition to the King via the Foreign Ministry.

It said the military reduction was unfair, as Cambodia still has about 500 soldiers around the eastern side of the Preah Vihear foothill, while Thailand has only about 300 military personnel on the western side.

The Thai side was seeking equal reduction from the Cambodian side, military sources said.

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