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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Officials meet in Siem Reap for golf and informal talks

Officials meet in Siem Reap for golf and informal talks

Meeting between Thai, Cambodian military brass seeks to further dialogue between front-line commanders, defence official says.

Cambodian soldiers walk down the mountain near the Preah Vihear temple complex last week. Cambodian military officers said Sunday that Thailand had brought in reinforcements to the border area.

HIGH-ranking Cambodian and Thai authorities held an informal meeting Thursday in Siem Reap to encourage their regional commanders to set up additional meetings in an effort to reduce tension along the border near Preah Vihear temple, a defence official said.

Chhum Sucheat, the spokesman and undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Defence, told the Post Sunday that ministry officials hoped the meeting would push the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) commander of region 4 and the Thai commander of region 2 to meet more regularly.

"We are optimistic from the meeting that the result will be more dialogue between Cambodian and Thai commanders, which will help reduce tensions in order to avoid armed confrontation," he said.

Neang Phat, a secretary of state at the Defence Ministry, and advisers to General Anupong Paochinda, commander-in-chief of the Thai army, participated in the meeting, said Chhum Sucheat, who added that after the meeting the Cambodian and Thai delegation played golf together.

It is normal for both Cambodia and Thailand to reinforce troops at the border.

Chhum Sucheat said the next meeting between the Thai and Cambodian defence ministries would be an annual meeting to discuss border issues, which will be held in Bangkok between July 21 and July 23.

Along the border, Cambodian military officers said Sunday that the Thai army had brought in reinforcements to the border area.

Yim Phim, commander of Brigade 8, said Sunday that Thailand brought tanks, artillery and infantry to the border.

"So far, nothing has occurred, and the armies at the front lines remain on alert," Yim Phim said.

Chhum Socheat would neither confirm nor deny reports of troop reinforcements but downplayed their significance.

"It is normal for both Cambodia and Thailand to reinforce troops at the border ... therefore both sides now want to try to hold more meetings between regional commanders," Sucheat said. "We will try to set up more meetings in line with the recommendation of Prime Minister Hun Sen."

Cambodia and Thailand have long disagreed about the ownership of the area near Preah Vihear temple, and the dispute turned violent after UNESCO granted the 11th-century temple World Heritage site status last July.

Periodic gunbattles, the last one in April, have killed seven soldiers since then.

Although in 1962 the World Court ruled that the temple was in Cambodian territory, recently Thailand said it would seek joint listing of the temple, further raising tensions on the border.

The area near the temple has never been officially demarcated, in part because the border is still littered with land mines.



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