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Cambodia pulls back troops from disputed temple

Written By vibykhmer on Thursday, August 27, 2009 | 6:37 PM


PHNOM PENH, Aug 27 (Reuters) - Cambodia began a partial withdrawal of troops from its disputed border with Thailand on Thursday, a move likely to ease tensions between the two over a 900-year-old Hindu temple.

"This shows the positive position of Cambodia, that we want to live in peace, and is something the two nations will benefit from," said General Chea Dara, deputy commander in chief of Cambodia's armed forces.

"At the same time, we still have enough troops to defend our own territory," he told Reuters by telephone from the border.

The regional commander on the Thai side of the border said there were no plans to follow suit.

"There will be no withdrawal from this side," Major-General Chawalit Chunprasan told Reuters.

The Preah Vihear temple, which is perched on an escarpment that forms a natural border between the two Southeast Asian neighbours, has for decades been a source of tension and nationalist fervour.

The two countries have been embroiled in a series of standoffs over the temple in the past year, resulting in border skirmishes that claimed the lives of seven troops.

Thailand is challenging a United Nations decision to make the temple a world heritage site under Cambodia's sole jurisdiction.

Cambodia was awarded Preah Vihear in a 1962 international court ruling, but the court did not determine the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the ruins.

Thailand wants joint development and supervision of the temple, which could one day become a lucrative tourist site.

The two countries are also in dispute over parts of the Gulf of Thailand, where oil and gas deposits have been found.

Military representatives from both sides agreed on Monday to exercise restraint at the border. The Cambodian pull-back is due to end on Sunday.

(For a Q+A on the Preah Vihear temple dispute, click [ID:nBKK227352]). (Reporting by Ek Madra in Phnom Penh and Panarat Thepgumpanat in Bangkok; Editing by Martin Petty)

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