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Cambodia says troops to remain on border
by Staff Writers
Bangkok (UPI) Jun 7, 2011

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has denied reports that he had agreed to a troop withdrawal from the disputed border with Thailand near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple.

Thai media reported that Thailand Gen. Wichit Yathip and Sen met before hostilities broke out in February. They agreed both countries should withdraw troops from the disputed area and jointly manage the 1.7-square-mile overlapping border area.

Sen acknowledged that he met with Wichit while the Thai general was visiting Cambodia, attending the wedding of the son of a Cambodian defense minister in Phnom Penh. But Sen said no agreement was made, a report by China's Xinhua news agency said.

"Wichit Yathip just paid a short courtesy call on me and we had not discussed anything concerning the Thai-claimed overlapping area near the temple because Cambodia has never known where the (1.7-square-mile) area is," Sen said.

"Wichit should clarify his remarks."

Sen's remarks come after Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Cambodia should return to the negotiating table to settle their ongoing border dispute in which a dozen soldiers and civilians on both sides have been killed over the past three months.

Last weekend Abhisit also said Cambodia should withdraw its application for a judicial ruling on ownership.

Cambodia has taken its claim to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands. It wants the ICJ to rule -- again -- on the dispute which focuses on access and ownership of land around the 900-year-old Preah Vihear, since 2008 a World Heritage site, in the Dangrek Mountains on the Thai-Cambodia border.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the temple was on Cambodian land but some access to the mountaintop site passes through Thai territory, a route that Thai troops occasionally seal off.

Fighting has flared in the area within the past several years, notably in October 2008 when two Cambodian troops died and seven Thai troops were wounded in an hourlong gun battle.

The latest series of clashes has been condemned by the United Nations and the regional Association of South East Asian Nations, to which Thailand and Cambodia belong.

Thai and Cambodian field commanders have agreed from time to time on cease-fires but which have usually broken down within hours.

Abhisit said Sen should show good will by withdrawing his country's request that the ICJ reinterpret its 1962 ruling on Preah Vihear temple. "If Cambodia agrees and returns to talks with Thailand, both countries will benefit."

Thailand's Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwon reiterated his position that the Thai army would withdraw troops from the disputed area if the ICJ orders Cambodia to do the same.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongpakdi said Thailand would cooperate fully with the ICJ on any decision it makes.

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