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Border talks set for January

Border talks set for January

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081229_05_1.jpg

Officials hope ongoing political turmoil in Thailand will not force another setback for efforts to resolve dispute over contested territory on the frontier

Photo by: Tracey Shelton

A soldier stands near the Preah Vihear temple.

CAMBODIA will resume talks with Thailand over their disputed border in late January, officials said on the weekend, as a tense military standoff at contested areas of the frontier enters its sixth month.

"The next meeting [of the Joint Border Commission] will be held in Thailand as agreed," said Var Kimhong, Cambodia's top border negotiator.

"The Thai parliament will hold internal discussions on the border issue first, and after they've approved [the agenda], the two countries will set the schedule.

Cambodia and Thailand  have never fully demarcated their 805-kilometre shared border.

But a meeting between Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and his Thai counterpart on November 12 yielded an agreement to scale down troop numbers and begin joint demarcation and de-mining operations from mid-December.

It was the most concrete progress made yet to resolve tensions on the border that escalated after Cambodia first accused Thai troops of entering its territory in July, shortly after Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple was listed as a Unesco World Heritage site.

The incursion touched off the largest recent build-up of troops and military equipment on both sides of the border, finally erupting in a brief gunbattle in October that left at least three soldiers dead.

Thai turmoil an obstacle

While tensions have eased, ongoing political turmoil in Thailand again threatens to  stall progress on the border issue, officials said.

Already, demining missions planned for this month have been pushed back, as Bangkok continues to be endure anti-government protests.

"Now we are waiting the approval from Thailand's parliament" before the next round of talks can go ahead, Var Kimhong said.

Government spokesman and Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said that, despite Thailand's troubles, Cambodia was committed to keeping the peace on the border.

"Cambodia will avoid engaging in gunfire and will continue to seek peaceful bilateral talks on the issue," he said Saturday.

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