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Talks can ease Thai-Cambodian border tension -PM

Written By vibykhmer on Sunday, April 5, 2009 | 12:16 AM

http://everyday.com.kh/images/imageeday/2005/news/09-04-04n_soldier.jpgBANGKOK, April 5 (Reuters) - Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Sunday supported Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen's move to downplay a border clash, calling it the result of a misunderstanding that could be resolved through amicable talks.
Thai authorities said two of their soldiers were killed and nine wounded on Friday in a clash around the Preah Vihear temple, the worst fighting since a military stand-off near the area last year.

Cambodia said it suffered no casualties after the troops of the two sides exchanged rifle and rocket fire.

Preah Vihear, a 900-year-old Hindu temple known as Khao Phra Viharn in Thailand, sits on an escarpment that forms the natural border between the two countries and has been a source of tension for generations.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Saturday the clash would not escalate into a more serious conflict.

"I regard the fighting yesterday as an incident, not a war. I don't want to see these incidents repeated or fighting expand to other areas," Hun Sen said.

Tension over the fresh clash eased through sustained dialogue between Thai and Cambodian officials, Abhisit said on a weekly television programme.

He said the latest incident started with a Thai soldier stepping on a landmine in a disputed area over which both countries claimed sovereignty.

"Many border areas have problems arising from a dispute over counter claims by both countries," Abhisit said.

"There have been bilateral government talks over these problems, including contacts between me and Prime Mininister Hun Sen that have created mutual understanding that they should be resolved through negotiations," he said.

The International Court of Justice awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, but the ruling did not determine the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the ruins, leaving considerable scope for disagreement.

A joint border committee set up to demarcate the jungle-clad border area after last year's clashes, which killed one Thai and three Cambodian soldiers, will meet again on Monday for three days of talks.

Both sides have talked about developing the site, some 600 km (370 miles) east of Bangkok and only a decade ago controlled by remnants of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge guerrilla army, into a tourist destination.

(Reporting by Vithoon Amorn; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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