Thailand wants Cambodia talks before troop pullout

BANGKOK, July 19, 2011 (AFP) - Thailand will not comply with a UN court order to immediately withdraw troops from the disputed Thai-Cambodian border without talks with its Asian neighbour, the outgoing premier said Tuesday.

"It's possible that the talks could take place immediately but at this stage there is no talk of a pullout," Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told reporters.

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

"Overall it's clear that if there are going to be troop withdrawals on both sides, there must be talks," Abhisit said, adding that implementing a pullout would have to be carried out by the new Thai government due to take power in the coming weeks.

He said he had assigned the foreign and defence ministries to begin discussions with Phnom Penh.

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.

Thailand in turn, asked for Cambodia's request to be scrapped from the court's general list, a request unanimously turned down Monday.

The UN's highest court also ordered Thailand not to obstruct Cambodia's free access to the Preah Vihear complex or prevent Cambodia from taking fresh supplies to its non-military personnel there.

A decision on Cambodia's main request for an interpretation of the 1962 order could however 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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