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Thai-Khmer border pact signed by army

A Joint-Border Commission agreement designed to solve border disputes was reached

between Cambodia and Thailand, marking a step forward to smoothing out strained relations

between the two neighbors.

Cambodia's co-Defense Ministers Tea Banh and Tea Chamrath and Thailand's Defense

Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh signed the agreement on Sep 29.

The joint commission is aimed to allow any border problems to be resolved by discussions

between the two countries on the regional, Defence Ministry or Army General Staff

levels.

"This is an agreement of importance for the relationship between the two countries.

We strongly believe that everything will be properly settled in the future,"

Tea Banh said in a joint-press conference held after the trio inked the accord.

"It's a symbol of happiness for both countries. This agreement will produce

a step toward joint-cooperation between the two nations in all fields," said

Chavalit.

He said security could lead to opening up border passes which would allow residents

on both sides of the border to expand trade activities.

"Both kingdoms are neighbors, that is why it is necessary to assist each other

in developing rural areas along both sides [of the border]," said Chavalit.

Cambodian-Thai links have been strained because of fighting between the Cambodian

army and the Khmer Rouge guerrillas whom Thailand was accused of providing support.

The killing of 22 Thai loggers in Preah Vihear province last year caused relations

to become even more tense.

Chavalit, who is also the Thai Deputy Prime Minister, reiterated his government's

position of not supporting the Khmer Rouge.

Asked if Thailand would help Cambodia fight the KR, he said any military operation

against the rebel group was an affair of the Cambodian armed forces.

"However, fighting the Khmer Rouge is not beyond the capacity of the Cambodian

army at all. The Cambodian army has enough capability to retake the small portion

of territory occupied by the Khmer Rouge," said Chavalit.

But Tea Chamrath, accepting a donation of 30 tonnes of medicine from Thailand saying

more non-lethal aid would be sought, said: "My army does not want to fight any

longer. They are stuffed after 20 years of war."

Cambodia's Ambassador to Thailand, Roland Eng, said Chavalit's visit was "very

important".

"Right now I'm so glad that the relations are getting much better," Roland

Eng said.

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