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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cambodia ready to wait as Thai crisis delays talks

PHNOM PENH (dpa) - Cambodia is content to wait for as long as it takes Thailand to settle its political upheavals and resume talks over disputed border territory, its government said Thursday.
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said by telephone that it was the least Cambodia could do to give Thailand breathing room to get its internal affairs in order.

"The dispute over the border has been around 100 years," Kanharith said. "A few more weeks can't hurt."

Cambodia closed the border at the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple on its northern border in June. On July 7 Unesco declared the temple a World Heritage Site over Thai objections, and a week later, Thai troops moved into nearby areas that it said are disputed but that Cambodia said is its territory.

Cambodia claimed Thai troops also moved into the Moan temple complex 150 km to the west soon after - claims Thailand denied, saying it has had a troop presence near there for years.

Several rounds of talks have failed to resolve the deadlock with both sides vowing not to back down. Further talks are now on hold.

Thailand's Constitution Court on Tuesday found embattled Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej guilty of violating the national charter for hosting a television cooking show after he assumed office on February 6, forcing him out of his job.

Although the court's ruling immediately deprived Samak of the premiership, the constitution allows him to return to the post if members of parliament vote him back into power.
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Cambodia: US Warship Gives Rare Tour To Cambodian Officials

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA: Cambodian government and military officials took a rare tour of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier when it sailed through the region on its way home from Iraq, embassy officials said Thursday (11 Sept).

It was the first tour by Cambodian officials of a U.S. aircraft carrier and "another step in the growing military to military relationship" between the two countries, said embassy spokesman John Johnson.

The Cambodian delegation was flown by a U.S. military aircraft from the capital, Phnom Penh, for a four-hour visit Wednesday (10 Sept) on the vessel, which was about 250 miles off the Cambodian coast, Johnson said.

Cambodia's army commander, Gen. Meas Sophea, called the tour "a very special occasion," in a prepared statement.

Mao Has Vannal, head of Cambodian's civil aviation authority, said he'd only seen such military capabilities on television.

"On the return flight, we took off under the force of the catapult system shooting the plane up into the air," he said Thursday. "It was so real compared to what we used to see on the Discovery Channel."

The tour was the latest sign of growing relations between the two countries.

In February, the USS Gary, a guided missile frigate with 200 officers and crew, was the first American military vessel to dock at a Cambodian seaport in more than 30 years.

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military heavily bombed suspected communist guerrilla strongholds in Cambodia.

The U.S. backed Cambodia's 1970s military regime led by General Lon Nol until it was toppled by Khmer Rouge rebels. Eighteen U.S. soldiers were killed fighting Khmer Rouge forces on Koh Tang, a Cambodian island in the Gulf of Thailand, in May 1975. (AP)

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