Cambodia to Withdraw First From Preah Vihear

Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong announced Friday that Cambodia will withdraw more than 480 troops from the provisional demilitarized zone surrounding the Preah Vihear temple complex Wednesday.

The removal of Cambodian troops is expected to lead to a reciprocal withdrawal by Thai troops stationed in the vicinity of the temple, which has been the site of several clashes between both countries since 2008.

“We will withdraw some 486 Cambodian troops from the de­militarized zone, a symbol to prove our goodwill in abiding by the Inter­national Court of Jus­tice’s [ICJ] order issued on July 18 last year,” Mr. Namhong said at a news conference to conclude the 45th Asean Foreign Mini­s­ters’ meeting in Phnom Penh.

“Now, Cambodia moves a step forward to move back troops on July 18,” he said, indicating that he expected Thailand to do the same.

The foreign minister also said that Thailand had used many excuses to slow down the pro­c­ess of troop withdrawals from the demilitarized zone, which was demanded of both sides by the ICJ ruling.

While the ICJ ordered the withdrawal, the ruling did not specify a process, or timeline, by which the forces should exit, leaving the issue contested by Phnom Penh and Bangkok with each calling on the other to remove its troops first. With neither side willing to start first, troops have remained in the outlined demilitarized zone since.

General Chea Dara, deputy commander-in-chief of the Royal Cam­bodian Armed Forces, said that the troop withdrawal would take only one day.

Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh said that in a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen in Siem Reap City on Friday, Thai Prime Minister Ying­luck Shinawatra said that Thailand would also pull back troops from the 17.3-square-km demilitarized zone.

“After learning that Cambodia has the strong will to withdraw Cambodia troops from the demilitarized zone…she claimed Thai troops will be pulled back too,” the minister said.

After the withdrawal of Camb­o­dian and Thai troops, only police and security guards will remain in the area, he said.

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