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Talks start on border standoff

Talks start on border standoff

Siem Reap

TEE times and talks dominated efforts Thursday to broker an end to the standoff between Cambodia and Thailand over disputed border territory, as military leaders from both sides gathered in Siem Reap for two days of meetings.

Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh enjoyed a round of golf with Thai military officials as midlevel officials held talks meant to pave the way for high-level negotiations today.

The tensions over Preah Vihear were not officially discussed at Thursday's meeting, said Neang Phat, secretary of state at the Ministry of Defence. The purpose of the session, he said, was to "exchange information" ahead of today's talks.

Separately today, Prime Minister Hun Sen is to meet with his Thai counterpart, Somchai Wongsawat, on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe (ASEM) summit in Beijing for discussions that are to focus solely on the border conflict, said Koy Kuong, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Somchai told reporters Thursday he wanted peace restored between the neighbours "as soon as possible".

"My meeting with Hun Sen is on the basis that we are close neighbouring countries that can never separate," Somchai said.

"If there is a problem, we will solve it with peaceful measures."

A Thai military official in Siem Reap who did not want to be named said, "Both sides need peace, so I think that we will reach a positive outcome".

Troops along the border continue to dig in, despite diplomatic efforts to end the three-month standoff over disputed territory.

Siem Reap Governor Sou Phirin told the Post, "troop withdrawal from the disputed area is still under negotiation".

ADDITIONAL REPORTING CHEANG SOKHA AND AFP

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