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Standoff ends at Veal Antri

Thai soldiers withdraw from disputed territory: RCAF.

DOZENS of Thai soldiers withdrew Wednesday evening from disputed border territory in Veal Antri following an hours-long standoff with Cambodian soldiers, a military official told the Post.

"They withdrew at 5pm after they had a confrontation with our soldiers for more than eight hours," said Khim Eung, military officer for Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) Brigade 8. "Thai soldiers came into [the territory] this morning, and Cambodian soldiers were sent in after Thai soldiers arrived there first."

Veal Antri was the site of fighting that killed three Cambodian soldiers in October during last year's dispute with Thailand over territory around Preah Vihear temple.  

Khim Eung said soldiers from both countries had until Wednesday abided by an agreement reached last October not to enter the contested land.

"Now they have come to the banned place," he said of the Thai soldiers.

Khim Eung said Thai soldiers claimed they entered the territory because they were concerned that Cambodians were cutting down trees there, but added that he doubted the claim's veracity.

"This is their trick," he said. "They actually had a willingness to stay in it, but we forced them to go back."

Khim Eung said dozens of Thai soldiers entered the disputed territory, but he could not provide a specific number. An RCAF official who spoke on condition of anonymity said 60 Thai soldiers entered and that more were stationed in a nearby forest.

RCAF Brigade 8 Commander Yim Phim said Wednesday that he had not heard of the incident, adding that he was "travelling to his base to check".  

Minister of Defence Tea Banh and Srey Doek, commander of RCAF Division 3 at Preah Vihear temple, also said they had not received any information about the incident.

An RCAF official based at Preah Vihear temple who spoke on condition of anonymity said RCAF soldiers would have been "ready to fight" had the Thai soldiers not withdrawn.

The Thai military denied troops had crossed the border en masse, AFP reported.

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