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Border Tensions 'Eased' as Troops Pull Back: Hun Sen

Tension along the border where Thai and Cambodian troops have been stationed since 2008 have been greatly reduced with the situation nearing its pre-build-up level, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday.

Both sides are working toward a resolution to the disputed border area near Preah Vihear temple, which became the site of ongoing military skirmishes and lasting worry for policymakers since the temple was inscribed on a World Heritage protection list under Cambodian management in July 2008.

“The situation has eased,” Hun Sen said in public comments Monday. “The border situation has been solved out.”

But it remains unclear just how far either side has backed off.

Khon Savoun, said that 10 Thai soldiers left Wat Keo Sekha Kiri Svarak pagoda, a flashpoint west of the temple, on December 1.

But Cambodian soldiers remain in newly built barracks along the border, and Thai and Cambodian troops are still making joint patrols, Khon Savoun said.

Hun Sen gave few details Monday. “I don't want to make a public statement,” he said. “But I can say that the problem was solved out. I'll just say that, and it's enough to understand.”

Hun Sen said four meetings between him and Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had led to the easing of tensions, following repairs to diplomatic relations that reached a nadir in late 2009. The two countries will celebrate 60 years of diplomatic relations on Dec. 19.

Thai parliament is now expected to approve minutes from joint border committee meetings that could pave the way for more border talks, demining and demarcation. Thai protesters say they plan to demonstrate against the approval of the minutes.

Hun Sen said Monday the movement of goods across the border was now “easy,” but added more steps remain, including “the measurement of the border, the issue of demining and the issue of opening more border checkpoints to push bilateral cooperation.”