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RCAF tells Thai soldiers to leave pagoda near Preah Vihear temple

RCAF tells Thai soldiers to leave pagoda near Preah Vihear temple

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At the hilltop near Preah Vihear temple in May, a Cambodian machine gun is aimed towards the Thai border.

Thai military commanders say they need time to ask their superiors if they can abandon the pagoda, according to Cambodian general

HIGH-RANKING Cambodian commanders told their Thai counterparts to withdraw their troops from a pagoda near Preah Vihear temple at a meeting Wednesday night between Thai and Cambodian military officials, according to a Cambodian general who attended the meeting.

"We asked Thai military commanders to withdraw their soldiers at the pagoda and near the pagoda. Cambodia will not allow them there anymore," said the general, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"The Thai commanders said they needed to ask their superiors about the request and asked for three more days," he said.

Phorng Eung, a Cambodian officer stationed at Preah Vihear who was not in attendance, told the Post that his superiors had told him the same thing.

"This is a strong message to the Thai side," he said.

A Post reporter witnessed hundreds of Thai soldiers occuppying the pagoda near Preah Vihear temple on July 15 last year.

But after negotiations among officers, the Thai commanders agreed to withdraw most of their troops and only keep 10 unarmed Thai soldiers at the pagoda and 30 armed soldiers about 30 to 40 metres away.

The general predicted that tension on the border would rise after July 4 or 5 if the Thai soldiers did not withdraw from the pagoda and vowed to use force if necessary.

"But this is Cambodia's last choice to take action in this way," he said.

Som Kem, a Cambodian officer at the border, said he had heard that the Thai military had asked to stay in the pagoda until July 5.

"[Cambodian] commanders asked the Thai military not to come to the pagoda starting Thursday, but they still came and stayed there. They asked to stay in it until Sunday," he said.

The deputy commander of Military Region 4, Pov Heng, confirmed that a meeting between Thai and Cambodian commanders occurred on Wednesday night at the O'Smach Resort Casino.

Som Kem said the situation on the border was normal but that all the soldiers were on alert.
Officials at the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh were unavailable for comment Thursday.

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