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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cambodia: Thai troops retreat from disputed border

Thai soldiers pull back from Cambodian border

PHNOM PENH (Reuters): Thai soldiers pulled back from a disputed stretch of the Cambodian border Tuesday, a Cambodian general on the scene said, shortly before the expiry of a conflict deadline set by Phnom Penh.

"They pulled out from our land," General Chea Mon told Reuters by phone from the vicinity of the Preah Vihear temple, which lies at the heart of the border dispute.

"The situation seems to have returned to normal," he said.

(Reporting by Ek Madra; Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Darren Schuettler)


Cambodia: Thai troops retreat from disputed border

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — A Cambodian army official says Thai troops have retreated from a disputed border ahead of a noon deadline issued by Cambodia's prime minister.

Cambodian Brig. Gen. Yim Pin, tells The Associated Press that all Thai troops had retreated from the contested area.

Yim Pin said Tuesday that "The tense situation has now eased."

Earlier, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had warned Thailand to withdraw troops by noon or face unspecified consequences.

A day earlier, Hun Sen had warned that "armed clashes will break out" if Thai troops did not retreat.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia's prime minister issued an ultimatum to Thailand to withdraw troops from a disputed border area by noon Tuesday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen's warning came amid rising tensions over a stretch of border near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, which has been a source of dispute between the two countries for decades.

Hun Sen accused Thai troops of advancing on a border area called Eagle Field near the temple in an attempt to occupy Cambodian land.

"They must withdraw," Hun Sen said. "I have set the timeline for them to withdraw by 12 o'clock." Noon in Cambodia is 1 a.m. EDT.

"At any cost, we will not allow Thai troops to invade this area. I would like to be clear about this," Hun Sen said. He added that he had ordered Cambodia's army chiefs to "take full responsibility over this area. It is a life-and-death battle zone."

Thailand's Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat said he had ordered the army to "take care of the situation so there is no violence."

"We do not object to redeployment so there is no confrontation," Somchai told reporters, adding that he was not aware of Hun Sen's deadline.

Both countries have long claimed Preah Vihear, but the World Court awarded it to Cambodia in 1962. However, sovereignty over some of the land around the temple has not been clearly resolved.

Tensions flared July 15 after UNESCO, the U.N. agency, approved Cambodia's bid to have the Preah Vihear temple named a World Heritage Site. Both sides deployed troops to the border.

A brief gunfight broke out between the two sides early this month, with one Cambodian and two Thai soldiers wounded. Both sides claimed the other fired first and blamed each other for being on the wrong side of the border. Three days later, two Thai soldiers lost legs when they stepped on land mines in the area.

Hun Sen met Monday with Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornwiwat, but the meeting appeared to end without a resolution.

He said Monday, "We told them that if they do not stop (trespassing), armed clashes will break out."

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