Further signs emerged yesterday that Cambodia and Thailand are close to withdrawing troops from the disputed territory surrounding the Preah Vihear temple after the Thai defence minister reportedly said both sides had informally agreed to the pull out.
Defence Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa said informal agreements had been reached between himself and his Cambodian counterpart, Tea Banh, on all the issues slated for an upcoming meeting of the General Border Committee, including troop withdrawal, the Bangkok Post reported.
“We’ve talked about the five issues and informally agreed to approve them all at the meeting,” the Bangkok Post quoted him saying.
On July 18, the International Court of Justice established a Provisional Demilitarised Zone around the 11th-century temple and ordered both countries to withdraw troops so that independent Indonesian observers could be deployed in the area.
On Wednesday, the director of the Thai military’s Cambodia division, Colonel Siribunsot Sirisak, told the Post his country’s troops would likely begin withdrawing two to three weeks after the GBC meeting was held in Phnom Penh in December.
Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongpakdee declined to comment yesterday on Ministry of Defence statements but said he “never thought [implementing the ICJ decision] was in doubt”.
“I think all along we had indicated we would abide by our international commitments under the UN charter; it’s just that we had to go through a constitutional process,” he said.
A proposal regarding the ICJ provisional measures had been submitted to a joint session of parliament two days prior, he added.
Cambodian defence minister Tea Banh and his official spokesman Chum Socheat could not be reached for comment.
After tensions between the neighbouring countries came to a head with deadly clashes in February and April near the 4.6 square-kilometre disputed area, diplomatic relations warmed following the July election of Thai PM Yingluck Shinwatra.
Chheang Vannarith, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Co-operation and Peace, said yesterday progress in the peace process had been hampered primarily by Thai domestic politics.
“They needed to stabilise before they had a common position related to the border, so I think it’s the Thai side rather than Cambodian side [that held up the process],” he said.