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Thai troops pull back after PM's ultimatum

Thai troops pull back after PM's ultimatum

THAI troops have pulled back from two flash points along the border, Cambodia military officials there say, calming fears of war after an ultimatum from Cambodia was issued Tuesday.

"The Thai soldiers withdrew from Veal Antri at 10:15am. They went back to their camp about one kilometre across the border," Chea Saran, deputy commander of the infantry operating on the border, said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen warned Tuesday that the presence of Thai troops in Cambodian territory would trigger "large-scale armed conflict", after the two sides failed to resolve the territorial dispute.

Hun Sen said Thailand had until noon Tuesday to withdraw its troops before the border turned into a "battle zone".  

"The situation is calmer now that they have gone, but we do not know what is going to happen next and we are waiting to see how the situation evolves," Chea Saran said.

"We are still on alert," he added.

"We are waiting to see ... what the Thais do next, but they have already turned back to their camp so it is OK now."

Thai soldiers have also left Ta Moan temple, another hotly disputed spot on the border that they occupied several weeks ago and closed off to Cambodians, said Neak Vong, deputy commander of the unit stationed there.

"[The Thais] have unlocked the gate ... there is no problem now - the situation is better because there are no Thai soldiers standing at the temple," he said, adding that the Thai troops left around noon Tuesday. Thailand has denied its troops have moved back.

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ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

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