>Cambodia, Thailand promise border troop withdrawal

>Amornviat (L) and Hor Namhong (R) promised to withdraw troops.

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) – Cambodia and Thailand pledged on Wednesday to start marking out disputed bits of border next month and withdraw troops in January to avoid a repeat of last month’s armed clashes at the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple.

After three days of negotiations by a joint border committee in the Cambodian resort town of Siem Reap, Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornwiwat said “99 percent” of the problems had been resolved.

He did not elaborate other than to say the agreement had to be approved by Thailand’s parliament, as required by the constitution.

At a joint press conference broadcast on Cambodian television, Cambodian foreign minister Hor Namhong said the troop withdrawal would make way for joint teams to clear the thousands of landmines that litter much of the jungle-clad border.

“We have decided to plant border pillars in the disputed area first because we are trying not to have a repeat of the conflict,” Hor Namhong said.

One Thai and three Cambodian soldiers died in last month’s exchange of rifle and rocket fire, which both sides accused the other of starting.

The Hindu temple, which sits on the escarpment that forms the natural border, has been a source of tension for generations.

The International Court of Justice awarded it to Cambodia in 1962, but the ruling did not determine the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the ruins, leaving considerable scope for disagreement.

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