07/19/2012, 00.00
CAMBODIA - THAILAND
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Cambodian and Thai soldiers withdraw troops from disputed Preah Vihear temple

The soldiers were replaced by about 600 police officers of both nationalities. The event takes place after decades of battles that have cost dozens of lives. The area is considered a World Heritage site.

Preah Vihear (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Cambodia and Thailand have withdrawn their troops from a disputed border area situated near the temple of Preah Vihear. The event takes place after decades of conflict and fighting. The last such clash occurred in April and claimed 18 dead. With a ceremony attended by the military authorities from both countries, about 485 Cambodian soldiers and an unknown number of Thai soldiers simultaneously loaded their weapons onto trucks in a demilitarized area near the ancient temple.

The troops were replaced by about 600 policemen who will take over service in the temple area near the border. In part controlled by Phnom Pen, about 255 agents will take care of security in the temple and 100 patrol the surrounding land. Bangkok instead has deployed 300 border guards over the mountains surrounding the temple.

The border dispute between the two countries has been ongoing since 1962, when the International Court ruled control of the ruins of the Hindu temple of Preah Vihear in favor of Cambodia. The area where the temple stands is considered Cambodian  territory, but is surrounded by steep cliffs covered with jungle that Thailand considers its own. In addition, because of the morphology of the territory the site is impossible to reach through Cambodia.

After years of negotiations, the dispute was rekindled in 2008 when UNESCO decided to include the temple on the list of world heritage sites, requiring Bangkok to allow access through its borders. In recent years several clashes occurred between the two armies deployed near the site.

 

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