>Thai parliament gives green light for border talks with Cambodia

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A Cambodian commander, Col. Chea Sopha (L) talks to a Thai commander, Col. Than (R) on October 19, 2008.

BANGKOK (AFP) — Thai parliament has given the government the green light to launch talks with Cambodia aimed at settling a long-running border dispute which boiled over into violence, officials said Wednesday.

The next round of talks aimed at ending a military stand off on disputed land near Cambodia’s ancient Preah Vihear temple will be held next month, after a border firefight on October 15 killed one Thai and three Cambodians.

“Parliament has granted the government two frameworks of negotiation,” said Virachai Plasai, a foreign ministry official in charge of legal affairs.

“The two frameworks will allow the government to launch negotiations with Cambodia in order to solve the boundary and border issues,” he told reporters.

Initial issues to be hammered out, beginning when the two sides meet from November 10 to 14, are the redeployment of troops on disputed land near Preah Vihear and removing landmines from the area.

In the longer-term, Virachai said, the two countries would try and settle ownership of patches of disputed land along Thailand and Cambodia’s 798-kilometre (495-mile) shared border.

The Cambodian-Thai border has never been fully demarcated, in part because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia.

Tensions between the neighbours flared in July when the 11th century Preah Vihear was awarded United Nations World Heritage status, rekindling long-running tensions over ownership of the surrounding land.

Two rounds of emergency talks after the October 15 clashes made little progress, with both sides only agreeing not to fire on each other again.

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