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Thai Military Officials Arrive for Preliminary Talks

Senior Thai military officials arrived in Phnom Penh Thursday to hold talks with their Cambodian counterparts over border issues.

The preliminary talks will set the stage for a general border committee meeting that was postponed last month, defense officials said Thursday.

The resumption of talks at the military level comes after the resumption of diplomatic ties between the two countries last week and could pave the way for more discussions on a contentious border dispute over land near Preah Vihear temple.

Thailand's military commander for border affairs, Ni Phatthongleng, will meet with Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh over the weekend to discuss border issues like security and immigration.

But he could also work on a date for the general border committee meeting, Chhum Socheath, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense said.

Border committee meetings are generally led by Tea Banh in conjunction with his Thai counterpart, Prawit Wongsunwon. It a the basis of discussions on issues ranging from landmine disposal to drug smuggling and human trafficking.

The larger problem of the Cambodian-Thai border dispute will have to be solved on another level, and Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Thursday those talks, between foreign ministers, would have to wait until Thai parliament agrees to several agreements already discussed in border meetings.

Military talks can continue, however, he said, “because they are not limited to the border, but relate to many issues.”

“So I have allowed talks at this level,” he said.