>Thai, Cambodia ‘friendly’ but firm in border talks

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Cambodian LTG Chea Morn (right) and his Thai counterpart Wiboonsak Neeparn at a meeting in Siem Reap province. Thai and Cambodian military commanders have concluded talks aimed at easing border tensions after deadly clashes last week, but staunchly maintained their front line positions.

(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

SIEM REAP, Cambodia (AFP) — Thai and Cambodian military commanders on Friday concluded talks aimed at easing border tensions after deadly clashes last week, but staunchly maintained their front line positions.

The senior military officials, whose talks began over a round of golf a day earlier, met to defuse the border dispute near the ancient Preah Vihear temple, which erupted into a firefight on October 15 that left one Thai and three Cambodian soldiers dead.

“For the issue of Preah Vihear area, both sides vowed to exercise maximum patience in order to avoid confrontation or more military clashes,” the leader of the Cambodian delegation, General Chea Mon, told reporters at the conclusion of meetings.

“Both sides will continue discussion to resolve the problem peacefully in order to ease the tension gradually,” he added.

The Thai commanders, led by Lieutenant General Wiboonsak Neeparn, said there was a “friendly atmosphere” with the Cambodians but insisted Thailand’s soldiers would stand firm.

“The Thai side strongly reiterates that the position of our troop deployments is clearly inside Thai territory,” said a statement from Thai commanders released as the meetings began.

Cambodian Brigadier Bun Thean, a commander at the border, told AFP by telephone that “the situation remains calm at Preah Vihear, but our troops are still on high alert.”

Thailand’s terms of negotiation must be approved in parliament on Tuesday before the two countries can have further border talks.

Separately, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his opposite number Somchai Wongsawat reiterated that their nations would prevent any more armed clashes over the dispute as they met in Beijing on the margins of a summit between leaders of Asian and European nations.

Cambodian and Thai military officials agreed to joint border patrols a day after last week’s temple clashes.

But Cambodian commanders have since backed out, saying such patrols are not possible in disputed areas.

Tensions between Thailand and Cambodia flared in July when Preah Vihear was awarded United Nations World Heritage status, rekindling long-running tensions over ownership of land surrounding the temple.

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