(BangkokPost.com, with Agency reports)
The cabinet on Tuesday endorsed a Thai military withdrawal from the front lines at Preah Vihear temple, as Cambodia demanded that Thai forces also pull back from Ta Moan Thom temple in Surin province.
The cabinet meeting only rubber-stamped an agreement between Cambodia and Thailand to pull back from their confrontation at the disputed area around Preah Vihear. It did not mention specific numbers or dates for the withdrawal.
Cambodia has demanded Thailand "go first" in stepping back at Preah Vihear, where even an accident could trigger military action by about 1,000 troops on each side. On Tuesday, it also demanded that Thai forces get away from the second temple, Ta Moan Thom, where there has been no change in military deployment in several years.
Government spokesman Wichainchot Sukchotrat said the cabinet had backed the joint withdrawal at Preah Vihear, but added that details would be discussed later by Cambodian and Thai military officials.
"The adjustment will be made in appropriate numbers in order to lower tension. Enough troops will be left to protect our sovereignty and integrity," he told a press conference.
After military officials agree on the details, the foreign ministers will meet on Aug 18 and 19 at Hua Hin, an army officer said. It was not clear there would be such a meeting, however. Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said on Monday there would be new talks with Thailand until a new government takes office in Phnom Penh following elections last month.
The Preah Vihear feud got even hotter on Sunday as Cambodian politicians stoked the increasingly nasty anti-Thai feelings in the country. They alleged Thai troops were occupying the second temple, 130 kilometres west of Preah Vihear and not involved in the original dispute.
Army commander Anupong Paojindasaid insisted on Tuesday that the temple and Thai troops are within "Thai territory."
Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh, however, said the temple "is clearly under our sovereignty, and we have to demand it back."
"Our position is to try to talk to them (Thai troops) and get them to withdraw to where they came from," Cambodia's Tea Banh told reporters.
About 50 Cambodian soldiers have long been stationed near the Thai troops at Ta Moan Thom, with another 200 deployed about 300 metres from the temple site. The 13th century temple was built during the Khmer Empier as a rest stop for travellers between Angkor Wat and towns which today are in the Northeast region of Thailand.
Lt Gen Niphat Thonglek, chief of the Border Affairs Department, said Tuesday that Cambodian troops had long been allowed at Ta Moan Thom because they came in small groups and were unarmed.
"Over the weekend, about 40 to 50 of them came and they were armed, so the Thai troops did not allow them in," he said.