TEN Thai soldiers had been withdrawn from Preah Vihear temple as of yesterday, Cambodian military sources said, despite statements to the contrary from Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.
“December 1 was the last day of the 10 Thai soldiers’ presence” at Wat Keo Sekha Kiri Svarak, said Khon Savoun, a Cambodian military officer stationed at Preah Vihear.
A Royal Cambodian Armed Forces intelligence officer, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the ongoing border dispute, said Cambodian and Thai commanders held a meeting yesterday, which he attended. Chea Dara, deputy commander-in-chief of RCAF, and Srey Doek, commander of Division 3, met with Thai commanders from Military Region 2 at Preah Vihear temple.
“We just talked about strengthening the friendship of both armed forces and people from both nations, and we all inspected the trenches” that had been recently filled in, the intelligence officer said. Srey Doek said he was too busy to comment.
Om Phirum, heritage police chief for the Preah Vihear National Authority, said on Wednesday that the road up to the temple had been temporarily closed to visitors in order to allow soldiers to withdraw from the area without attracting attention.
“We blocked this road for just a short time as the soldiers are withdrawn to their bases, and we don’t want the people to see the movement of the troops,” he said.
But on Wednesday the Thai premier denied that Thai troops were being withdrawn from the area, the Bangkok Post reported yesterday.
Meanwhile, the Thai-nationalist Yellow Shirts announced plans to hold a mass rally on December 11 in a bid to stop the Thai parliament from endorsing reports emerging from meetings of the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission.
Abhisit said he hoped to meet with members of the group before the planned protest. additional reporting by the Bangkok Post