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Talks on despite Thailand turmoil

Talks on despite Thailand turmoil

TALKS between Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart Abhisit Vejjajiva are still scheduled for later this week, when the embattled Thai premier is expected to visit Cambodia despite worsening unrest in his own country, a Foreign Ministry official  said Sunday.

"Up to now there is no information that the schedule has changed," said Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong Sunday evening.

"The Thai prime minister's personal security will be well-protected here in Cambodia," he said, referring to attacks against the premier by anti-government demonstrators who stormed Thailand's Interior Ministry as they brought much of Bangkok to a standstill Sunday.

"There is a big difference between the  situation in Cambodia and Thailand," he said.

Koy Kuong added that the official agenda for the talks between the two leaders had yet to be set, but that further talks over disputed territory on the border were likely.

"I hope that this is a good opportunity for high-level discussions on the border issue [and] that Prime Minister Hun Sen will urge the Joint Border Commission to move forward to resolve the issue."

Recent clashes between Cambodia and Thailand were the result of a "misunderstanding" and will not harm long-term bilateral relations, Abhisit said following talks Friday with Hun Sen.

The two leaders met on the sidelines of the weekend's aborted ASEAN summit in Pattaya, Thailand, in their first encounter since three Thai soldiers died in fierce gunbattles over disputed territory near Preah Vihear temple earlier this month.

"During our bilateral talks we discussed the latest incident," Abhisit told reporters following his meeting with Hun Sen.

"It happened because of a misunderstanding. The incident will not affect our relations and we will use channels of communication if anything happens in future."

Abhisit said that the leaders had also discussed cooperation on their overlapping maritime zones and talked about improving the road networks linking the two countries.

But Thailand's political troubles threaten to derail agreements reached during talks last week, when the Thai-Cambodian Joint Border Commission hammered out a deal to place markers along the countries' 805-kilometre shared border as early as next month.

The agreements have to first be approved by the Thai parliament before they can be implemented - a step that has been delayed by previous political upheavals in Bangkok.

Tensions between Cambodia and Thailand have been high since July, when the UNESCO listed the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site, angering Thai nationalists.

Meas Yoeun, a deputy military commander at Preah Vihear, said the front lines remained quiet, but that the upheavals in Bangkok were worrying.

"We are paying attention to the border because of the turmoil in Thailand," he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

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