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Disputed borders central to talks during Thai PM's visit

Disputed borders central to talks during Thai PM's visit


Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (right) and Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva smile as they flank an ancient Cambodian carved head repatriated from Thailand during a ceremony Friday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Thailand returned seven smuggled ancient artefacts to Cambodia, in efforts to soothe relations between the two neighbours locked in a military standoff at their disputed border.

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The returned antiquities on display at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Friday.

SHAKY bilateral relations, including recent border clashes at Preah Vihear and the stalled demarcation of a maritime border that has hindered oil exploration offshore, dominated the first official visit to Cambodia by Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, officials said Sunday.

"[Prime Minister] Hun Sen would like to see the border between the two countries normalised, as it was before July 17," Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said Sunday, referring to what the government says was an incursion by Thai troops into Cambodia that sparked the ongoing military standoff over disputed territory on the frontier.

"Both prime ministers agreed to resolve this issue peacefully," Koy Kuong said, adding that the pair also vowed to resolve a dispute over the countries' sea border, which lies over an area thought to contain large deposits of oil.

"Deputy Prime Minister Sok An will meet in the near future with his Thai counterpart to find a solution to the sea border issue," Koy Kuong said.

Additional talks centred on trade, the creation of a single tourist visa between the two countries and the development of infrastructure such as roads and hydropower dams, Hun Sen's spokesman Eang Sophalleth said last week.

As a gesture of future cooperation, Thailand returned seven antiquities - including six asura (giant) heads and one deva (angel) head confiscated from smugglers in 1999.     

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said the artefacts were among 43 pieces of 12th-century Angkorian sculpture stolen from temples inside Cambodia and expressed hopes the additional artefacts would be forthcoming.

"The government of Cambodia hopes that the remaining pieces will also be returned in the future," he said. During meetings with Abhisit, Hun Sen also urged the Thai government hand back the remaining antiquities.

"We are continuing to ...provide more documentation in order to receive back all 43 of our antiquities," said Khim Sarith, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.


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