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Hun Sen Won’t Talk Temple With Thai Deputy

Prime Minister Hun Sen said Thursday the only words he would want to exchange with a visiting Thai official would be news that Thailand is withdrawing troops from positions along the border.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva rankled Phnom Penh earlier this week by suggesting Cambodia and Thailand share the Unesco World Heritage status of Preah Vihear temple, which is at the center of a military standoff along the northern border.

Thai officials hope to meet with Unesco authorities in Spain this week, where they could request Preah Vihear temple be placed under joint maintenance. Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban is then scheduled to make an unofficial visit to Cambodia on Saturday to meet with Hun Sen.

In a speech to graduates in Phnom Penh Thursday, Hun Sen he was prepared to welcome Suthep and the defense minister, Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan, but “not to raise the Preah Vihear temple, to explain to me.”

“I cannot accept any explanation…except if that explanation stresses that [Thailand] will pull Thai invasion forces out of Cambodia,” Hun Sen said.

Clashes on disputed territory near the temple have killed at least three Cambodian and three Thai soldiers in the past year.

“Cambodia does not use military force to solve bilateral problems,” Hun Sen said Thursday. “The military option is the last option in the implementation of the right to self-defense of territory.”

Demonstrations in Thailand in July 2008 coincided with Preah Vihear’s World Heritage listing, protests that deeply unsettled Thailand and led to the ouster of its democratically elected government.

Abhisit’s government should now take the same stance as the previous government, Hun Sen said.