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Troops Begin Partial Border Withdrawal

Cambodian soldiers and armored personnel carriers began a step-by-step withdrawal from border positions near Preah Vihear temple on Wednesday, as part of a drawdown deal with Thailand.

The partial withdrawal follows an announcement by Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday and a meeting between top military commanders on Monday.

Lt. Gen. Chea Dara, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, told VOA Khmer “a number of soldiers” had withdrawn from the front line near Preah Vihear temple, which has been at the center of a military standoff since July 2008.

At least seven soldiers from both sides have been killed in skirmishes following the build-up, which began after Preah Vihear temple was listed as a World Heritage Site, prompting protests in Thailand and Thai occupation of land claimed by both sides near the temple.

“We began to pull our soldiers back to their previous bases, following the order of Prime Minister Hun Sen,” Chea Dara said.

The withdrawal included soldiers from Intervention Brigade 11, soldiers from Siem Reap and Kampong Thom provinces and Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit, he said.

The withdrawal was to reduce tensions from the standoff, said Chhum Socheath, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense.

“It is a sign of stability in the border area,” he said. “It demonstrates a better situation and cooperation between the soldiers of the two countries along the border.