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UN calls for retreat by Thais, Cambodians

Associated Press / July 19, 2011

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THE HAGUE - The UN’s highest court yesterday created a demilitarized zone around a 1,000-year-old temple on the disputed border between Cambodia and Thailand, and ordered the armed forces from both countries to withdraw.

Both countries said they were satisfied with the ruling by the International Court of Justice, meant to end clashes that have claimed about 20 lives in the last three years and have displaced tens of thousands of people from the area around the Preah Vihear temple.

But Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of Thailand said that Thai soldiers will not pull out from the disputed area until the military of both countries agree on the mutual withdrawal.

“We need to talk to the Cambodians as the Cambodians also have to pull out their troops,’’ Abhisit said in Bangkok.

“So there has to be some kind of mechanism to verify, to do it in an orderly manner. And therefore it depends on the two sides to come together and talk,’’ he said, suggesting that an existing joint border committee would be the appropriate place to plan a coordinated pullback.

In The Hague, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong of Cambodia said the establishment of a demilitarized zone would mean “a permanent cease-fire. It will be tantamount to a cessation of aggression’’ by Thailand.

In brief remarks to reporters outside the courtroom, he made no reference to the demand for Cambodian troops to abandon the temple grounds.

The “provisional demilitarized zone’’ mapped out by the world court judges calls for Thai troops to move off a ridge line north of the temple and for Cambodian forces to leave the temple complex and move across a deep valley south of the shrine. It also called on the nations to allow officers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations into the area to observe the cease-fire, which was called for by the UN Security Council last February.

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