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Demilitarisation of Preah Vihear closer

Demilitarisation of Preah Vihear closer

Cambodia and Thailand agreed yesterday to withdraw troops from the Provisional Demilitarised Zone at disputed territory surrounding the Preah Vihear temple 30 days after the area is de-mined, though there is no clear indication when that task will be started or finished.

The agreement is perhaps the most significant step yet made by the neighbouring countries in complying with a ruling by the International Court of Justice on July 18 last year that ordered both sides to “immediately” remove troops from the PDZ.

After a marathon 20-hour session of the Joint Working Group that saw delegates negotiating until 12:30am on Wednesday, the decision was announced yesterday by Thai and Cambodian counterparts.

“The troop withdrawal will take place 30 days after the de-miners from the two countries agreed to confirm about the landmine free zone,” said Neang Phat, head of Cambodia’s delegation to the JWG.

It was agreed the Cambodian and Thai mine action centres will meet in the third week of next month to begin discussions for a joint-demining plan so the area would be safe for a Joint Observer Team to move in as the troops are redeployed.

General Worapong Sanganetra, chief of the Royal Thai Army’s joint staff, said the meeting achieved “good results” and reflected “good cooperation between the two sides’ militaries”.

“My face is smiling, it means that the meeting was conducted in good environment, smoothly, friendship and with good result, and my Cambodian counterpart gave me a warm welcome party dinner last night,” he said.

Heng Ratana, director general of Cambodian Mine Action Centre, said he could not say yet how long it would take to de-mine the area because it depended on the number of teams involved in the bilateral exercise, the type of mines in the area, and fighting through thick vegetation among other factors.

The July 18, 2011, ICJ ruling established the 17-square-kilometre PDZ and followed fatal military clashes earlier this year over 4.2 square kilometres surrounding the 11th-century temple.

To contact the reporter on this story: Vong Sokheng at [email protected]

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