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Cambodia, Thailand Agree to Border Talks


Cambodia has agreed to postpone its complaint to the UN Security Council over a military border crisis, pending a bilateral meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries in Siem Reap Monday.

The agreement follows a phone conversation between Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej Thursday and came as heavily armed troops on both sides were positioned at various points along the Thai-Cambodia border.

A government spokesman meanwhile called for both Cambodian and Thai troops to return as soon as possible to positions they held near Preah Vihear temple two weeks ago, to avoid an eruption of violence along the border.

"The stance of the Cambodian government is that we want both sides, Cambodia and Thailand, to return to the situation [as it was] before July 15, because if the troops from both sides stay together it is not good, and a problem will erupt," government spokesman Khieu Kanharith told reporters in Phnom Penh. "If the situation is not returned to the way it was before July 15, there could be an explosion, and we wouldn't be able to avoid fighting each other."

As the crisis entered its ninth day, Thai and Cambodian troops had been deployed along the border near Anlong Veng and O'Smach districts, Oddar Meanchey province, Oddar Meanchey Governor Pich Sophin said.

An increasing number of Thai soldiers have been sent to areas on the border of Banthey Meanchey province, near Poipet, but the international crossing remains open, Banthey Meanchey Governor Ung Ouern said.

Officials say the build-up includes tanks, artillery and the arming of Thai villagers along the border. Up to 4,000 troops from both sides have been deployed.

Khieu Kanharith said Thursday Cambodia had 800 troops on the border, but Cambodian commanders say the number is closer to 1,500.

Cambodia also wants the withdrawal of Thai troops from Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda, because their presence there could lead to later claims to the territory by Thailand, Khieu Kanharith said.

Thai Embassy officials declined to comment Thursday.

Thailand maintains the pagoda was illegally built on Thai territory against agreements made between the two countries in border negotiations in 2000.

Defense Minister Gen. Tea Banh made a brief visit to the disputed area Thursday.

After the visit, he concluded the situation was still peaceful, but he urged both sides to remain calm.

The Cambodian side will maintain sufficient troops on the border to protect Preah Vihear temple, he told VOA Khmer.

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