Cambodia and Thailand have reached a deal regarding the disputed border area near the ancient temple of Preah Vihear (photo, from bbcimg.co.uk).
Both countries will withdraw their troops and announced in a joint statement that they agreed to set up a working group on “redeployment of their military personel completely and simultaneously from their current positions in the provisional demilitarised zone at the earliest”.
The deal was reached following a meeting in Phnom Penh between Thai defence minister Yuthasak Sasiprapha and his Cambodian counterpart, Tea Banh.
The statement also said that the withdrawal will take place in the presence of Indonesian observers, according to AFP news agency.
There have been several deadly clashes between the two countries because of this territorial dispute over a patch of land around the temple. Tensions which increased in 2008 when then temple was awarded World Heritage status by the UN cultural organisation, Unesco.
Although Thailand does not dispute its neighbour’s ownership of the World Heritage-listed temple, both sides claim some of the surrounding area : the main compound lies inside Cambodia but its most accessible entrance is at the foot of a mountain in Thailand.
Soldiers exchanged fire across the disputed border in 2009, but more serious trouble took place this year. Last February at least eight people were killed in several days of fighting and in 18 people died in April, with tens of thousands displaced.
Then Cambodia asked the International Court of Justice, the UN’s highest judicial organ, to rule over the disputed border, and in July the court ordered both countries to remove troops from the area.
However neither side has complied.