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Monday, October 13, 2008

Cambodia, Thailand resume talks on border spat

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodia and Thailand on Monday resumed talks on their simmering border spat, following a skirmish between troops near an ancient temple earlier this month.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and his Thai counterpart Sompong Amornviwat met in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh with the aim of resolving the border dispute.

"The biggest topic for the meeting is the border issue," Cambodian foreign ministry spokesman Koy Kuong told AFP.

Sompong is also scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen later in the day, the official said.

The two countries have swapped accusations of violating each other's territory in the dispute over land near at least three ancient temples along their border.

At least one Cambodian soldier and two Thai troops were wounded when units exchanged gunfire during a brief clash on October 3 near Preah Vihear temple.

Two other Thai soldiers were also seriously injured last week after stepping on a landmine near the ruins.

Talks to discuss withdrawing troops from around Preah Vihear were postponed late August amid political turmoil in Thailand.

Tensions flared in July after ancient Khmer temple Preah Vihear was awarded world heritage status by the United Nations cultural body UNESCO, angering nationalists in Thailand who still claim ownership of the site.

Those tensions turned into a military confrontation in which up to 1,000 Cambodian and Thai troops faced off for six weeks.

Both sides agreed to pull back in mid-August, leaving just a few dozen soldiers stationed near the temple. However, much of the Cambodian-Thai border remains in dispute, and the slow pace of mine clearance has delayed demarcation.
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