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Thais Leave Areas Near Temple: Officials

Cambodian officials said Tuesday more than 80 Thai troops left two areas near Preah Vihear temple, a day after Prime Minister Hun Sen issued an ultimatum for their withdrawal.

"After negotiations with two-star general Srey Douk, commander of Division 12, and the commander of Thai forces this morning near Preah Vihear temple, the Thai forces that entered Viel Entry on Monday right now have withdrawn from that area," according to Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement.

Viel Entry is a small field near Preah Vihear temple, which has been at the center of a contentious military standoff since July 15.

However, Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornviwat told reporters in Bangkok the troops were still in place near the area, Agence-France Presse reported.

"All 80 troops will remain in the disputed area because Thailand has overseen that area for 20 to 30 years," AFP quoted Sompong as saying. "Of those 80 troops, 20 of them are mine clearance workers and the rest offer protection for the mine clearance troops."

Thai troops remained in their positions along other points of the border in Oddar Meanchey and Preah Vihear provinces, Cambodian officials said.

Worried arket vendors in Bantheay Meanchey province who cross the border daily in Poipot to sell on the Thai side stayed in Cambodia Tuesday.

"They are afraid of a border conflict between the two countries, after they heard on the radio and TV the speech of Prime Minister Hun Sen, warning of large-scale conflict in the border dispute," Bantheay Meanchey Governor Oung Oun said.

Renewed tensions over the border come following failed talks between the countries' foreign ministers in Phnom Penh on Monday and a statement to reporters by Hun Sen that warned Thai troops to withdraw from two areas, Viel Entry and Pram Makara, on Phnom Troap, near the temple.

Phnom Troap was the site of a small skirmish that wounded one Thai and one Cambodian soldier earlier this month, and where two Thai soldiers were injured by landmines.

The Thai Foreign Ministry said on its Web site Tuesday their soldiers would defend themselves "if Cambodia does resort to the use of force."

"Thailand is surprised by the remarks by the Prime Minister of Cambodia issuing an ultimatum to Thailand to move its military personnel out of the area adjacent to the Temple of Phra Viharn (Preah Vihear) and threatening the use of force," the Thai Foreign Ministry said.