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Troops to remain on guard at Thai border

Defence minister says some soldiers must stay and protect Preah Vihear despite warmer ties.

DEFENCE Minister Tea Banh on Wednesday said despite a recent thaw in the Preah Vihear temple dispute with Thailand, Cambodian troops will still be required to guard the border against any violation of the Kingdom's sovereignty.

"We do not need too many soldiers there now. We are currently adjusting the numbers to achieve the right balance for the situation," he said.
Tea Banh would not, however, provide details about how many troops he thought might be required to secure the frontier.

Following a request by Prime Minister Hun Sen last week, Cambodia announced it would begin withdrawing troops from the disputed border region that has seen sporadic fighting and at least seven soldiers killed since October last year.

WE WILL KEEP ENOUGH TO DEFEND ... THE LOSS OF EVEN ONE CENTIMETRE OF LAND.

RCAF General Pol Sareoun and his Thai counterpart, Supreme Commander General Songkitti Jaggabatra, on Monday declared an end to hostilities in a landmark meeting at RCAF headquarters.
Srey Doek, commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces's Division 3, said Hun Sen's request for a troop withdrawal was only the first step, and that the RCAF would officially implement the withdrawal on August 30.

Back to their provinces
He said troops currently at the border would be redeployed to Siem Reap and Kampong Thom provinces, and that soldiers from Brigade 11 would return to their base in Kampot.

He added that up to half of troops to be redeployed belong to Hun Sen's personal bodyguard unit.

Chea Dara, RCAF deputy commander-in-chief, refused Wednesday to specify how many soldiers would be redeployed or how many would remain on the border.

"I cannot say how many will leave or how many will remain," he said.

"But we will keep enough to defend the nation from the loss of even one centimetre of land," he added.

Current hostilities along the border in Preah Vihear began in July last year following the 11th-century temple's accession as a World Heritage site.

Thai troops subsequently occupied the temple complex, sparking the largest buildup of troop and military materiel along the border in years.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, which has vocally opposed the Thai presence at Preah Vihear, said he doubted the wisdom of pulling troops out of the area while Thai soldiers remain.

"We have not seen any positive resolution to this border issue yet, and Thai soldiers are still on our land," Rong Chhun said.

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