Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said Monday an agreement will likely be reached today to withdraw the remaining 30 Thai and 30 Cambodian troops from the disputed area around Preah Vihear temple.
Hor Namhong departed Monday for Hua Hin, Thailand, to lead a 10-member Cambodian delegation for two days of bilateral peace talks and also to meet Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
“I think that during the meetings today [Monday] and tomorrow [Tuesday], we will achieve the total withdrawal of troops from the pagoda and around the pagoda, so the problem will be settled,” Hor Namhong told reporters Monday morning at Phnom Penh International Airport.
The standoff at Preah Vihear, now into its fifth week, eased over the weekend when nearly all of the hundreds of Thai and RCAF troops situated near the temple “redeployed” to outside the overlapping claims area. RCAF Major General Srey Dek, chief of the Preah Vihear operation, said Monday the situation remained stable, with just 10 Thai and 10 Cambodian troops inside the Preah Vihear pagoda, and 20 Thai and 20 Cambodian troops in the surrounding area.
Hor Namhong said he would dine in private Monday evening with Thai Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag, then today lead bilateral plenary talks focused on removing all troops from the disputed area around Preah Vihear temple.
Hor Namhong said the military standoff can likely be resolved without intervention from the UN Security Council or Asean, and the two sides would today set dates to conduct demining operations and install border demarcation posts along the border near Preah Vihear temple.
Officials will also discuss the standoff at the Ta Moan temple complex on the border of Oddar Meanchey province, Hor Namhong said, as Cambodians should be allowed to visit it “like before.”
“I will talk with the Thai king after the meeting [today], and I will tell him that we have similar cultures, we are neighboring countries, we are Asean members and we ought to solve the problem in peace and friendship,” Hor Namhong said.
His remarks came as Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej was visiting Thai troops stationed near the Ta Moan temple complex Monday morning, said RCAF Region 4 Deputy Commander Nark Vong. The Thai military Thursday began allowing unarmed Cambodian troops and civilians to again visit the two Ta Moan temples claimed by Cambodia, but only during the daytime.
The military standoff is taking its toll on Cambodian troops stationed at the remote border area, Nark Vong said, as 20 of the 300 troops at Ta Moan have come down with malaria in the past two weeks.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said today’s peace talks will center around a memorandum of understanding signed by both countries in 2000, which commissioned a Joint Border Committee to demarcate the entire 800-km border.
“The problem will be solved through the JBC, not the military,” Phay Siphan said by telephone Monday.
Thailand and Cambodia each use their own maps to claim territory around the Ta Moan and Preah Vihear temples, with Cambodia referencing maps drawn in 1904 and 1908 by French-Siamese commissions, and Thailand referencing a map drawn in the 1970s with US technical assistance.