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Monday, May 28, 2012

Cambodia, Thailand Agree on Troop Pullout from Disputed Border

Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh and his Thai counterpart Sukumpol Suwanatat agreed on Monday to urge the two countries' Joint Working Group (JWG) to speed up their talks towards troop withdrawal from the disputed border area surrounding the 11th century Preah Vihear temple.

"We agreed to have the JWG convene the 2nd meeting in Phnom Penh next month to continue discussion about the troop withdrawal," Tea Banh told reporters after the meeting. "We stressed our commitment to comply with the order of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as soon as possible."

 Speaking to reporters through an interpreter, Sukumpol Suwanatat said that he hoped that the JWG would be able to conclude their talks towards the pullout in the next month's meeting.

"Thailand also wants to speed up the process towards the troop pullout because Thailand thinks that the slow process towards the pullout is not good for Thailand," he said, adding the major obstacle for the issue was landmines in the area.

Cambodia and Thailand established the JWG in last December to work for the complete and simultaneous redeployment of the two countries' military personnel from the Provisional Demilitarized Zone (PDZ) surrounding Preah Vihear temple in order to comply with the ICJ's order.

The 1st JWG meeting was held in early April in Bangkok, Thailand.

Cambodia and Thailand have had sporadic border conflict over territorial dispute near Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple since the UNESCO listed the temple as a World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008 and witnessed fierce clashes in February and April 2011 during Thailand's Democrat Party rule.

On April 28, 2011, Cambodia submitted a request to the ICJ for interpretation of its judgment on June 15, 1962 in the case concerning the ancient temple.

It was accompanied by an urgent request for provisional measures in which Cambodia demands Thailand immediately and unconditionally withdraw troops from area surrounding the ruined temple.

During the interval of waiting for the verdict interpretation, the ICJ ordered Cambodia and Thailand on July 18, 2011 to immediately withdraw their military personnel from the PDZ and allow ASEAN observers (Indonesians) to access to the zone to monitor ceasefire.

 However, to date, neither Cambodia nor Thailand has withdrawn its troops from the 17.3 square kilometer PDZ.

Sukumpol Suwanatat arrived here on Monday morning to join the 6th ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting, which is scheduled on May 28- 30.

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