Cambodia wants border observers before troops leave

Cambodia on Wednesday said third party observers must be sent to its disputed border with Thailand before it will comply with a UN court order to immediately withdraw troops from the area.

The Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled Monday that both countries should remove their forces from the area around the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple, scene of deadly clashes earlier this year.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong talks to media during a press conference at Phnom Penh International Airport on July 20, 2011

But neither country has yet withdrawn its military presence and Thailand on Tuesday said talks between the neighbours would precede any military pullout.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said he had urged Indonesia, currently chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to send observers into the area as soon as possible.

"For Cambodia, Indonesian observers must arrive to examine the area first before we withdraw," he told reporters.

Indonesia has tried to mediate a solution to the conflict on behalf of ASEAN, but has achieved little except the in-principle agreement to allow a small third party team into the area.

The ICJ decision came after Cambodia launched a bitter legal battle before the court in late April in which it asked for an interpretation of a 1962 ruling on the Preah Vihear temple, the centre of a long legal wrangle.

While judges pondered that decision, Cambodia also asked for it to order Thailand to withdraw troops and stop military activity.

A decision on Cambodia's main request for an interpretation of the 1962 order could still take the court several months.

Although Thailand does not dispute Cambodia's ownership of the temple, secured by the 1962 ICJ ruling, both Phnom Penh and Bangkok claim the 4.6-square-kilometre (1.8-square-mile) area surrounding the ancient complex.

In February the United Nations appealed for a permanent ceasefire after 10 people were killed in fighting between the neighbours at the temple site, but fresh clashes broke out further west in April, leaving 18 dead and prompting 85,000 civilians to flee.



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