Cambodia and Thailand agree to remove troops from disputed border

September 16th, 2011 - 2:51 pm ICT by BNO News  

PHNOM PENH (BNO NEWS) — Thailand and Cambodia on Thursday agreed to remove their troops from a disputed area on their common border, officials said on Friday.

The prime ministers of both countries agreed to “redeploy troops” away from the disputed area near the temple, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said. He added that the redeployment of troops would require observers from Indonesia, the current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations bloc, according to the Bangkok Post.

In July, a ruling by the Hague-based International Court of Justice asked both nations to withdraw military personnel from around the Preah Vihear temple complex, but neither side has pulled out yet. Last month, Cambodia withdrew approximately 1,500 troops from an area located 150 kilometers (93 miles) west of the Preah Vihear Temple as the two neighboring countries’ military tension eased.

Both Cambodia and Thailand claim the 4.6 square kilometer (1.7 square miles) area near the ancient Preah Vihear temple on their shared border, which has never been formally established. However, the military tension has eased since the former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s Pheu Thai Party won a landslide victory in July’s general election.

Tensions first escalated between the two countries in July 2008 following the build-up of military forces near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple. The United Nations Security Council urged both sides to establish a permanent ceasefire after at least 10 people were killed.

Clashes resumed earlier this year as both nations claim the lands surrounding the ancient Hindu Temple, which has been damaged due to the conflict. The Preah Vihear temple dates back to the 11th century and is located on the Cambodian side of the border.

Both prime ministers held talks on Thursday during Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s one-day official visit to Phnom Penh. According to Yingluck, the meeting went smoothly and was the opening of “a new chapter” in relations between Thailand and Cambodia, the Bangkok Post reported.

She also said that Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had promised to find ways for the early release of two Thai activists jailed in a Cambodian prison. Veera Somkwamkid and Ratree Pipattanapaiboon, from the Thailand Patriot Network, were detained for illegal entry and spying charges.

A Cambodian court on February 1 ruled that Veera and his secretary Ratree were guilty of espionage, illegal entry, and trespassing in a military zone. Veera was sentenced to eight years in jail and a 1.8 million riel ($450) fine, while Ratree was handed a six-year jail term and a 1.2 million riel ($300) fine.

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