>Thailand, Cambodia reaffirm border troop pullback

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Mr. Tej Bunnag (R) and his delegation in the talks with Cambodian delegation on the Preah Vihear disputes, 19th August 2008.

AP – Wednesday, August 20

HUA HIN, Thailand – Thailand and Cambodia ended talks Tuesday without resolving their overlapping border claims, but agreed to meet again to work out how and when to withdraw troops from a disputed temple site.

Foreign ministers of the two countries declared themselves pleased with the latest round of talks aimed at ending a standoff over frontier territory surrounding the Preah Vihear temple and nearby Ta Moan Thom temple.

Thai and Cambodian senior military officials met last week, after which both sides pulled back hundreds of soldiers from the area. About 800 troops from Cambodia and 400 from Thailand had been deployed to Preah Vihear and the surrounding area in a monthlong standoff. Weapons were drawn once but no shots were fired.

Thai Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag said military officials from both sides would meet Aug. 29 to work out the details of pulling back the handful of their countries’ troops that remain in the area. He did not announce the location of the next round of talks.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said his country agreed to withdraw it soldiers from the area near Preah Vihear temple, leaving only police for security, but that the timing would depend on further negotiations. He did not elaborate.

At a joint news conference after the talks at the Thai resort town of Hua Hin, the ministers also said their countries’ joint border commission would meet in early October to formally begin discussing how to demarcate the border.

“The situation has been improving quite a lot. Tension in the area has ceased and we hope that the situation will go back to normal as soon as possible,” Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Tarit Charungvut said as Tuesday’s meeting began.

The armed 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. Some Thais feared the temple’s new status would jeopardize their claims to surrounding land.

Thailand and Cambodia have both long claimed land around the temple, which the World Court awarded to Cambodia in 1962.

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