Almost 2,000 RCAF troops and about 250 border police have been withdrawn from the Preah Vihear temple area, officials said yesterday.
Major General Kul Vay, commander of the RCAF 9th Division, said his unit of 1,800 troops had begun leaving the disputed border area in small groups on Sept 15 and had fully withdrawn by Oct 15 to their base, which, like the temple, is in Choam Ksan district.
“First we withdrew from the temple by about 8 km and now we are at our military base about 60 km from the Cambodia-Thai border,” he said. He added that Thai troops had also started a progressive draw-down from the area on the same day but could not say how many Thai troops had been moved.
Thai officials were unavailable yesterday.
Various other military units remain stationed around Preah Vihear area, Vay said, but he declined to give a total number of troops.
“Nowadays there is still Division 7, Division 8, Division 1, Platoon 404, paratroops Brigade 911 and the Prime Minister Bodyguard Unit who are staying at the frontline. But my division have withdrawn from Preah Vihear temple,” he said.
Dong Chan, chief of a Border Police brigade stationed alongside military troops at Preah Vihear, said yesterday that a unit of roughly 250 men had also been withdrawn during the past week. Mr Chan’s unit, Brigade 795, remains at the site.
“Brigade 793 of the border police moved from the temple…around 10 km away in Choam Ksan commune,” Mr Chan said.
Chea Lay, commander of the 793rd Brigade, could not be reached yesterday.
Lieutenant-General Chhum Sucheat, spokesman for the Defense Ministry, said yesterday that he had no information on troop movements at the border, where he said force levels were a “secret.”
Cambodian military personnel have been stationed at the temple since June 2008, following protests by Thais against Cambodia’s bid to list Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site.
(Additional reporting by Lucy Jordan)