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Cambodia Awaiting Monitors for Border Withdrawal

A July 18, 2011 sketch-map by the International Court of Justice shows an area around Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple and surrounding territories claimed by Thailand, which the Court identifies as a 'Provisional Demilitarized Zone.' The July 18 ruling is t

Cambodian officials say they are prepared to comply with an international court order to demilitarize an area surrounding Preah Vihear temple, but not until third-party monitors arrive.

The International Court of Justice in The Hague on Monday ordered troops from both sides to clear a provisional demilitarized zone around the temple, which has been at the heart of a deadly military standoff since July 2008. It also ordered that both sides allow observers to have access to that zone. Indonesia, as head of Asean, has offered to provide observers.

The court decision was in response to a Cambodian request for the court to clarify a decision it made in 1962 over not only the temple, which it awarded to Cambodia, but surrounding lands that both sides still lay claim to.

Chhum Socheath, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, told VOA Khmer on Tuesday Cambodia was willing to withdraw from the area but would implement the court order “step by step.”

“When there is a presence of Indonesian observers to monitor a permanent ceasefire in the provisional demilitarized zone, we must withdraw from the border area,” he said.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who chaired a national security council meeting Tuesday, was quoted saying he has assigned officials to map out talks with Cambodia to implement the international court order.

He said he believe a General Border Committee between the two sides was the best channel for implementing the order, the daily Nation reported. The court order had no bearing on border demarcation, he said, according to the Nation.

Chhum Socheath said Cambodia is not opposed to talks with Thailand, under the framework of Asean.