Monday, August 24, 2009

Cambodia to cut troop numbers at temple site disputed by Thailand

Aug 24, 2009
Asia-Pacific News

Phnom Penh - Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced he will cut troop levels at the disputed area around Preah Vihear temple in northern Cambodia in response to a similar move by Thailand, local media reported.

Hun Sen said that Thailand has recently cut the number of its soldiers to just 30, the Phnom Penh Post newspaper reported Monday. He did not specify how many Cambodian soldiers would be withdrawn.

'We have a plan to change the deployment a little,' Hun Sen said. 'If anything happened, it wouldn't take long to send our troops up again, but I hope there won't be any fighting there.'
Both nations have had soldiers killed and wounded in clashes in the area since mid-2008, when the temple was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO, the UN's cultural body.

The violence drove relations between the two ASEAN members to a low point and caused concern among other members of the regional bloc.

The Cambodian commander of the military division stationed at the temple site told the Phnom Penh Post that the reduction in numbers was 'a good signal,' and that the situation at the site 'is returning to normal.'

In an effort to show the situation is less fractious, Thai and Cambodian soldiers based at the 11th-century temple will take part Tuesday in a joint religious ceremony.

In a further sign of progress, the Cambodia Daily newspaper reported that Songkitti Jaggabatara, supreme commander of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, will meet Monday in Phnom Penh with the chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.

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