Cambodia Capable of Defense in Temple Standoff Minister Says

Cambodia can and will defend itself if necessary in the armed standoff that has simmered along the border with Thailand, Defense Minister Tea Banh told reporters Thursday at the National Assembly.

“We have the potential, the training and weapons to defend our country or stop our neighbors,” he said. “It is not easy to solve because it is a complex problem,” he added.

Force would not be used to enter Thai territory, Tea Banh said, adding that both sides only want what they believe is theirs.

“We complain that the disputed land is ours and they complain it is theirs, so we need to find a reasonable resolution,” he said. “We are neighbors. We can negotiate.”

To ease tensions over the dispute, it is imperative for troops from both sides to return to their locations prior to the events of July 15, when Thai troops entered the Preah Vihear temple area, Tea Banh said, adding that both sides need to respect the 73 demarcation posts that run along the 800 km common border.

Thailand and Cambodia will restart bilateral negotiations to resolve their 10-week border dispute this coming Monday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York.

Military leaders will also meet in early October in Siem Reap to resume negotiations concerning the withdrawal of troops from Preah Vihear temple.

Thai Embassy First Secretary Chaturont Chaiyakam said by telephone Thursday that both governments will negotiate soon about withdrawals but he didn’t know the date.

“I have no comment about what Deputy Prime Minister Tea Banh said,” the first secretary added.

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