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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thailand, Cambodia agree to withdraw troops on border

Yutthasak says soldiers to be replaced by police

Thailand has agreed in informal talks with Cambodia that both sides will withdraw their troops from the overlapping border near the Preah Vihear temple site after the General Border Committee meeting in December.

The talks on the replacement of troops in the 17.3 square kilometre area along the border, marked as the demilitarised zone, is among five issues the two countries will finalise at the next soldier-to-soldier meeting of the GBC, Defence Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa said.

He was referring to recent negotiations with Cambodian Defence Minster Tea Banh.

"We've talked about the five issues and informally agreed to approve them all at the meeting," Gen Yutthasak said.

"There are some details for further discussion, but I believe we'll agree on all of them."

More than 700 Thai soldiers and up to 1,000 Cambodian soldiers are stationed in the area.

But the two countries must withdraw their troops to comply with the International Court of Justice's order on July 18 that the disputed border should be free of soldiers to avoid more skirmishes following cross-border fighting this year.

In their recent talks, neither country finalised how many soldiers they will withdraw, but Gen Yutthasak insisted all must move out and be replaced by police. He suggested each country deploy 400 officers.

Gen Yutthasak wants to hold the GBC meeting this month, but if the two countries cannot agree on a date, negotiations on the five issues are expected to start next month.

Other issues include the formation of an observer team in the disputed area, border checkpoint management, coordination with Unesco officials and what to do with people living in Wat Kaew Sikha Khiri Sawara.

The temple is on the overlapping border of the 4.6 sq/km area near the Hindu temple ruins. Both countries claim ownership of the area.

Gen Yutthasak said either Cambodian people must leave the temple or Thai people must be allowed to settle in the area in equal numbers.

Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia should form a team made up of nine representatives from each country. Members would not have to be soldiers.

Gen Yutthasak suggested three areas serve as border checkpoints: the entrances to Preah Vihear and Wat Kaew Skha Khiri Sawara, and an area near Chong Ban Dai Hak.

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