Thursday, 5 February 2009

No breakthrough at Thai, Cambodia talks

Agence France-Presse 02/04/2009

BANGKOK - Thai and Cambodian negotiators said Wednesday they had made little headway during fresh talks aimed at ending a border stand-off which erupted into a deadly military clash last year.

Senior government and military officials from the two nations, meeting in Bangkok, had hoped to make progress on border demarcation and reducing troop numbers in disputed land around Cambodia's ancient Preah Vihear temple.

Tensions over the long-disputed territory flared in July last year after Preah Vihear was granted United Nations world heritage status, and soldiers clashed there in October leaving four troops dead.

But as talks opened on Tuesday, the two sides locked horns over what spelling to use for Preah Vihear in documents. Although the World Court has recognised the temple as belonging to Cambodia, Thais call it Phra Viharn.

Speaking Wednesday after the latest talks ended, officials from the neighbours said they had agreed only to set up a working committee to look at the legal border issues and to begin mapping and surveying the disputed zones.

"We tried hard to find solutions in the interests of the two countries. We don't agree on some points which need to be discussed and clarified," chief Cambodian negotiator Var Kimhong told reporters.

Vasin Teeravechyan, head of the Thai delegation, said: "There are still some points that cannot be solved right away. We hope to find (solutions) in the next meeting, which will be held in the second week of April in Cambodia."

"One point is the name of the temple," he added.

The last meeting, in Cambodia's tourist hub Siem Reap in November, ended with officials agreeing in principle to reduce troop numbers at the border and form a task force, but there has been no concrete progress since then.

Thailand's defence minister is expected to visit Cambodia on Friday to discuss withdrawing troops from territory around the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, which sits on Cambodian land just on the border.

The Cambodian-Thai border has never been fully demarcated, in part because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia.

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