Wed, Jul 30, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Cambodia ready to recall troops from tense border: PM


Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday he was ready to pull troops back from the Thai border but was leaving the timing up to Thailand, a day after officials agreed to ease a tense two-week armed standoff near a disputed ancient temple.

As of yesterday afternoon, neither army had budged from their positions near Preah Vihear temple on the border.

Foreign ministers from both countries met on Monday for more than 12 hours in the Cambodian city of Siem Reap.

They failed to resolve the central issue over rights to a strip of land near the temple, but agreed in principle to move the 800 Cambodian troops and 400 Thais stationed nearby.

It remained unclear, however, when the troops would move or where they would be sent.

“For our side, there is no problem at all,” Hun Sen told reporters in Phnom Penh. “The issue is up to Thailand to decide when to act. For us, anytime.”

“We still have a standing order to remain calm and exercise restraint,” said Cambodian Major General Srey Doek, contacted by telephone at the border. “Thai troops are keeping the same position and so are we. But both sides do not want to wage war and only desire to live in peace with each other.”

Thai army commander General Anuphong Paochinda said his troops also had no immediate plan to budge.

“Thai soldiers will pull out from the area only after we receive an order from the government,” Anuphong said in Bangkok.

The dispute over land near the 11th century temple escalated earlier this month when UNESCO approved Cambodia’s application to have the complex named a World Heritage site.

Both sides stationed soldiers near the temple on July 15.

A first round of negotiations on July 21 foundered over which map should be used to demarcate the border, prompting Cambodia to request a meeting of the UN Security Council before agreeing to a second round of talks with Thailand.

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