Thailand mulls troop withdrawal: PM

Thailand's premier said he was not against withdrawing troops from a disputed border area after Cambodia issued a deadline and warned of armed conflict, but said details must first be agreed.
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Updated on Oct 14, 2008 10:45 AM IST
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AFP | By, Bangkok

Thailand's premier said on Tuesday he was not against withdrawing troops from a disputed border area after Cambodia issued a deadline and warned of armed conflict, but said details must first be agreed.

Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat called an urgent meeting of the top military brass after his Cambodian opposite Hun Sen gave Thai troops on Tuesday midday deadline to remove about 80 soldiers he said had encroached onto their territory.

"Thailand is not opposed to a withdrawal, where each side moves back to avoid confrontation, but we propose that the detail of any withdrawal should be worked out by a joint committee," Somchai told reporters.

"The joint committee would consult on how far the two countries must withdraw," he said.

Hun Sen's ultimatum came after talks between the Cambodian foreign minister and Thailand's foreign minister Sompong Amornviwat in Phnom Penh, which ended without a breakthrough in the three-month stand-off.

Sompong on Tuesday appeared bullish, saying he thought should they should wait for Cambodian officials to cool down and insisting the disputed land near the ancient Cambodian Preah Vihear temple belonged to Thailand.

"The problem now is not about withdrawing or not withdrawing -- it's our territory. How can they tell us that it is their territory?" he told reporters.

"As soon as I returned, there was a report of a deadline. What can we do? We are in our own homeland, and they want us to evict us from our own home."

Tensions between the neighbours first flared in July. Tensions escalated into a military confrontation in which up to 1,000 Cambodian and Thai troops faced off for six weeks in a small patch of land, although both sides in August agreed to reduce troop numbers.

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