New round of border demarcation talks starts today

August 18, 2008 at 4:23 am Leave a comment

Bangkok Post – August 18, 2008

WASSANA NANUAM AND AP

The Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) meets today in a new bid to end the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia. 

It comes after both sides agreed to reduce the number of troops on each side of the border. 

The Suranaree Task Force and the Cambodian government confirmed yesterday that the number of Thai and Cambodian soldiers in the overlapping zone had been reduced in line with the agreement reached last Wednesday in Surin. 

The two countries still had 10 soldiers each at the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda near Preah Vihear temple and 45 more around the pagoda’s compound for joint patrols, a source at the task force said. 

The rest were spread out in the 4.6 square kilometres of land which had not been demarcated, the source said. 

Thailand insists the area in dispute is in Kantharalak district in Si Sa Ket, while Cambodia argues that it is part of Preah Vihear province. 

Both countries finished moving most of their troops from a nearby temple on Saturday, said the source. 

Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith and Hang Soth, the director-general of the Preah Vihear National Authority, a Cambodian government agency managing the historic site, confirmed the troop pullout. 

”The tension has eased considerably. There is no more confrontation,” Mr Hang Soth said, calling the troop withdrawals a ”good process giving us hope” about the new talks. 

The reduction of troops came on the eve of the meeting between Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag and his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong in Cha-am district of Phetchaburi. 

The ministers will hold an informal meeting today followed by the official JBC meeting tomorrow. 

The Foreign Ministry said Thailand’s main agenda is to find a way to establish sovereignty of the disputed area. 

Second Army chief Lt-Gen Sujit Sitthiprapa will join other Thai negotiators in the talks. 

Despite the reduction of troops, the source at the task force said the army was not satisfied as another Thai demand had not been met. 

Thailand proposed at the Surin meeting that Cambodia replace 1,200 soldiers on top of the temple with police as a gesture of goodwill. 

The presence of the Cambodian soldiers at the temple put Thailand at a strategic disadvantage. 

On July 28, the nations’ foreign ministers agreed on a plan to withdraw their troops from the disputed area near the temple. 

The stand-off started on July 15 after the World Heritage Committee approved Cambodia’s application to list the temple as a World Heritage site. 

Both countries have long claimed the temple, but the World Court awarded it to Cambodia in 1962.

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Entry filed under: Politics, Preah Vihear Issue. Tags: .

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