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    Golf diplomacy to ease Thai-Camobdia border dispute

    AFP
    23.10.2008 - 12:33 | Son Güncelleme:

    Cambodia’s defense minister teed off with Thai military officials Thursday in a spot of golf diplomacy ahead of talks aimed at resolving a fierce border dispute.

    A meeting of mid-level officials in Cambodia’s northwest tourist hub Siem Reap was meant to pave the way for substantive talks on Friday between senior commanders on tensions that erupted into deadly clashes last week.

     

    While their juniors met, Cambodian defense minister Tea Banh arrived a day early for a round of golf with Thai military men.

     

    "The discussion today has resolved a lot of problems," Tea Banh told AFP on his way to the links.

     

    "The meeting (Friday) will clearly ease the situation more because we will discuss ways to make it better."

     

    The talks are aimed at resolving a simmering territorial dispute over land near the ancient Preah Vihear temple, which broke into a firefight a week ago that left one Thai and three Cambodian soldiers dead.

     

    General Neang Phat, secretary of state at Cambodia’s defense ministry, told reporters earlier Thursday that he thought commanders would reach an agreement to reduce the number of soldiers deployed in disputed territory.

     

    "We will also talk about how to avoid military confrontation and to continue re-deploying the troops," he said.

     

    Separately, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai opposite number Somchai Wongsawat are scheduled to meet Friday in Beijing on the margins of a summit between leaders of Asian and European nations.

     

    Somchai told reporters Thursday that he wanted peace restored between the neighbors "as soon as possible."

     

    "My meeting with Hun Sen is on the basis that we are close neighboring countries that can never separate," Somchai said.

     

    "We will have a good and amicable relationship with each other. If there is a problem, we will solve it with peaceful measures... If something needs to be done, we must do it to bring peace and order back as soon as possible."

     

    Governors of four Cambodian and four Thai provinces affected by the border dispute also met Thursday in Siem Reap to discuss how to help local interests during the military standoff.

     

    "The meeting (of governors) focused on cooperation of all sectors including trade and tourism," Siem Reap governor Sou Phirin told reporters.

     

    "We want people on both sides to believe there is no armed conflict."

     

    Cambodian and Thai military officials agreed to joint border patrols a day after last weeks clashes between soldiers stationed on disputed land near the temple, which belongs to Cambodia.

     

    But Cambodian commanders have since backed out, saying such patrols are not possible in disputed areas.

     

    Tensions between Thailand and Cambodia flared in July when Preah Vihear was awarded United Nations World Heritage status, rekindling long-running tensions over ownership of land surrounding the temple.

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