>Cambodia still on for bilateral border talks despite Thai troubles

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Phnom Penh – Cambodia still hoped to hold bilateral talks next week to defuse tensions over an ongoing border dispute despite continued political turmoil in Thailand, government spokesman Khieu Kanharith (pictured) said Wednesday. “We have prepared and we remain ready for the scheduled bilateral talks with Thailand,” Kanharith said by telephone.

Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat meanwhile sought to reassure the diplomatic corps in Bangkok in the wake of a bloodbath that claimed two lives and injured 437 and forced the premier to flee.

The tensions over disputed territory surrounding several ancient temples on Cambodia’s northern and north-western border with Thailand began in June but intensified over the weekend, with shots exchanged and soldiers on both sides wounded.

The border dispute has become a focus of anti-government Thai protesters and Cambodian nationalists alike, and both governments have said they are keen to defuse the situation by bilateral diplomatic means if possible and prevent any escalation.

Cambodia, watching events unfold across its border, is keen not to become embroiled in its neighbour’s political turmoil.

“We have received no word that the talks may be postponed,” a high ranking Foreign Ministry source said on condition of anonymity. “It is a highly sensitive issue and obviously we want to go ahead with talks as soon as possible.”

But despite both sides acknowledging the urgency of the matter, both have said they are determined not to back down over the ancient spat which has the potential to cause major political repercussions for both governments, and talks, even before Tuesday’s violence in Thailand, have so far yielded few results.

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