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Cambodia withdraws 485 troops from disputed border with Thailand

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia, July 18 (Xinhua) — Cambodia on Wednesday withdrew 485 military personnel from the Provisional Demilitarized Zone (PDZ) surrounding the 11th century Preah Vihear temple in order to comply with the order of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The pullout ceremony was presided over by Cambodian deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Gen. Tea Banh, and was attended by foreign diplomats, military attaches, government officials, locals and students.

According to a press release from the Council of Ministers, it was the “first step of troop redeployment” from the arena around Preah Vihear temple including the areas of Dragon Stair market, North Ancient Stair, East Ancient Stair, and Keo Sikha Kiri Svarak pagoda.

The troops were replaced by 255 policemen and 100 guards for safeguarding the temple, said the press release.

Gen. Chea Dara, deputy commander-in-chief of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces in charge of Preah Vihear Direction, said at the event that the redeployment is a testament proving that Cambodia wants peace with Thailand.

Addressing the ceremony, Gen. Tea Banh said that the pullout was to comply with the ICJ’s order and it was a progressive step to improve bilateral ties between Cambodia and Thailand.

The redeployment was made after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart Yingluck Shinawatra met last Friday in Cambodia’s Siem Reap province and agreed to redeploy military personnel in the PDZ surrounding the Preah Vihear temple in order to comply with the ICJ’s order.

Cambodia and Thailand have had sporadic border conflict over territorial dispute near Cambodia’s Preah Vihear temple since the UNESCO listed the temple as a World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008, but Thailand claims the ownership of 4.6 square kilometers of scrub next to the temple.

Fierce clashes between the two sides’ troops had happened in February and April 2011 during Thailand’s Democrat Party rule.

The ICJ ordered on July 18, 2011 that Cambodia and Thailand must immediately withdraw their military personnel from the 17.3 square kilometer PDZ and refrain from any armed activity directed at that zone.

Also, it ordered both parties to allow ASEAN observers ( Indonesians) to access to the zone to monitor ceasefire.

The redeployment on Wednesday was held without the arrival of the Indonesian observers.

Preah Vihear, a Hindu temple, is located on the top of a 525- meter cliff in the Dangrek Mountains, about 500 kilometers northwest of Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.

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