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Thai border ‘normal’: PM

Thai border ‘normal’: PM

Prime Minister Hun Sen announced yesterday that the situation along the Thai-Cambodian border near Preah Vihear temple has returned to normal after more than two years of tensions.

Speaking at the graduation ceremony, the premier said the situation at the temple – which flared after it was listed as a Cambodian UNESCO World Heritage site in July 2008 – had eased.

“I don’t want to make comments publicly, but I can say that the issue has been resolved,” Hun Sen said. “The situation has returned to normal like before July 15, 2008.”

The tensions over the eleventh-century Preah Vihear temple have forced the closure of a border crossing near the temple, and sporadic border clashes have taken the life of at least seven soldiers from both sides.

Hun Sen said that following four meetings with Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, the relationship between officials stationed at the border and the cross-border exchange of goods had been resolved. Border demarcation, demining and the reopening of the border gate are still under negotiation, he added.

Hun Sen said that on December 19, Cambodia will host a celebration marking the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations with Thailand. “I can say that we have a full normalisation of relations,” he said.

Officials said last month that the border gate at Preah Vihear was set to be reopened in the first week of December following mutual troop withdrawals.

Hang Soth, secretary general of the Preah Vihear National Authority, later said the reopening had been delayed by a month due to disagreements between the two sides. Yesterday, Hang Soth said that it was too early to comment about the reopening of the border crossing.

Thai officials have denied any troop withdrawals have taken place on the Thai side, but Khon Savoun, a Cambodian soldier based at Preah Vihear, said the Thai border troops positioned at Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvara since July 2008, had pulled back as of Wednesday last week.

Thani Thongphakdi, deputy spokesman of the Thai Foreign Ministry, said he had not heard Hun Sen’s comments.

He instead referred to comments made by Abhisit last week, when he said troop withdrawals should not be decided at the local level, but should rather be settled in direct talks between the two governments.

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