10/14/2008, 00.00
CAMBODIA – THAILAND
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Phnom Penh announces Thai pullout, Bangkok denies

Both sides issue statements and denials with regards to disputed border area. Cambodians claim Thais pulled back; Thais reject claim. For decades the Preah Vihear Temple, a UNESCO world heritage site, has been at the core of a dispute between the two neighbours.
Phnom Penh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Cambodian claims that Thai troops pulled back from the border a few hours before its ultimatum expired (noon local time) has been denied by Thai authorities. "We are still there," said Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat who is also the country’s Defence Minister, after a meeting with Army chief General Anupong Paochinda and foreign ministry officials.

Cambodian Prime minister Hun Sen gave Thailand a noon deadline today to withdraw all its troops from an area adjacent to the Preah Vihear temple on the Thai-Cambodian border or face a "large-scale conflict.”

Thailand’s response was immediate. Thai army spokesman Sansern Kaewkumnerd denied the Cambodian claim that Thai troops had withdrawn from the disputed area. He reiterated instead his country’s willingness “to continue with bilateral talks, but if the situation escalates, we are ready.”

Furthermore, Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornwiwait said about 80 troops went into the disputed territory on a mine removal mission after two Thai soldiers lost legs earlier this month when they stepped on land mines.

Tensions between the two neighbours heated up last August after UNESCO declared the Preah Vihear Temple a world heritage site in July.

The holy site, which is located on a promontory, belongs to Cambodia in accordance with a decision made by the International Court of Justice in 1962.

The surrounding area, no more than 4.5 km2, is however at the heart of a dispute between the two neighbours, each claiming substantial chunks of the other country’s territory.

The Thai military controls the main roads into the Temple area and some border sections are not clearly demarcated, factors which have fuelled tensions between Phnom Penh and Bangkok, which have in recent weeks deployed respectively 800 and 400 soldiers along the border.

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