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Mass of Troops at Preah Vihear to Withdraw

Cambodia and Thailand are set to withdraw the mass of their troops near Preah Vihear temple over the weekend, a top Cambodian military commander said Thursday.

The withdrawal follows a meeting between high-ranking military commanders on both sides in Surin province Wednesday.

"The redeployment of the armed forces that both countries have agreed to will be complete before the meeting of foreign affairs ministers in Hua Hin, Thailand," Aug. 18 and Aug. 19, said Gen. Neang Phat, secretary of state for the Ministry of Defense, who is head of Cambodia's Preah Vihear negotiating task force.

The reconfiguration of the maximum number of troops possible would take place on either Saturday or Sunday, he said, declining to give the exact number of soldiers that would remain at the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda and its surrounding areas.

The pagoda has been at the center of the crisis since Thai troops occupied it on July 15, leading to a build-up of thousands of soldiers on both sides and the deployment of artillery and other armed vehicles.

Both sides will keep 10 soldiers each inside the pagoda and 45 personnel in a 1-kilometer perimeter around the pagoda, the Bangkok Post reported Thursday, citing a Thai official present at Wednesday's meeting.

Both sides agreed during the meeting that soldiers who stay in the temple area will not be equipped with heavy arms, and trenches in the area would be refilled, Neang Phat said.

Neither side will establish camps inside the pagoda, but they will be allowed to stay in tents nearby, Neang Phat said.

The commanders will meet again following the bilateral discussions between foreign ministers, he said.

Thai soldiers must allow Cambodian soldiers and civilians to reach Ta Moan Thom temple, from Thursday, he added.