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Army rotates troops along Thai border

Army rotates troops along Thai border

THE army is restructuring itself and replacing troops along the border as the standoff with Thailand over disputed territory on their shared border approaches its sixth month, the military said.

The newly-formed Third Division - inaugurated December 8 in a ceremony presided over by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An in Choam Ksan district, some 30 kilometres from Preah Vihear temple - will absorb soldiers from piecemeal brigades and voluntary enlistees, military officials said.

The new division will operate in the border provinces of Preah Vihear and Oddar Meanchey and will be led by Srey Doek, the high-ranking military official stationed inside the Preah Vihear temple complex who previously headed Brigade 12,  military officials said.

The main brigades positioned along the border will also be replaced in phased transition that will have some soldiers stay behind to orient the newcomers to the precarious forests and cliffs of the border landscape, according to Sao Socheat, deputy commander of Military Region 4.

Worn-out troops relieved

"When the new soldiers know the layout of the land and master it, the old soldiers can leave," said Sao Socheat.

An officer stationed at Preah Vihear temple who wished to remain anonymous said soldiers there were feeling the ill effects of prolonged exposure to the elements.

"Some are tired and have health problems from being in the forest on the front line for more than three months straight. They need to take a rest and recover," he said.

Since fighting between domestic political factions ended in 1998, the army has dissolved divisions into smaller units.

Chea Saran, deputy commander of infantry for the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, said: "The changes are important for the defence of the nation.  Before, we had much less fighting so we demobilised soliders and divisions were broken up. Now, we face problems with Thai soldiers, so we have to reform the divisions." 

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