Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Cambodian, Thai defense ministers meet to cool tensions over disputed border

Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh and his Thai counterpart Sukumpol Suwanatat informally met and had lunch near Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple on Tuesday, aiming to reduce tensions ahead of the World Court's hearing over the disputed border around the temple in April.

"The two defense ministers just met and had lunch together in front of the Preah Vihear temple to create a closer atmosphere between the two sides' troops," Chan Punloek, an assistant to Royal Cambodian Armed Forces commander in Preah Vihear, Chea Tara, told Xinhua over telephone. "The meeting could cool tensions along the border ahead of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling over the disputed border," he said.

"The two ministers agreed to solve all issues peacefully based on existing mechanisms," said Chan Punloek, who also attended the meeting. "They also reiterated their commitment to complying with the decision of the ICJ."

The ICJ awarded the 11th century Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia in 1962.

The two neighbors have had sporadic border conflicts over territorial dispute near the temple since the UNESCO listed the temple as a World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008, but Thailand claims the ownership of 4.6 square kilometers of scrub next to the temple.

Fierce clashes between the two sides' troops happened in February and April 2011 under Thailand's Democrat Party rule.

However, the two nations have seen improving ties since August, 2011 when former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's Pheu Thai Party won the general election and led the current government.

At Cambodia's request, the ICJ is expected to issue a decision on who owns the disputed land around the Preah Vihear temple later this year.

The two countries are scheduled to give their oral statements on the dispute to the ICJ in the Netherlands on April 15-19.-Xinhua News (February 26, 2013 17:00:19)

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