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Page last updated at 10:15 GMT, Friday, 24 October 2008 11:15 UK

Thailand and Cambodia vow peace

Thai soldiers in disputed land around Preah Vihear temple on the Thai-Cambodian border on 19 October
The dispute has stirred intense nationalist passions on both sides

Thailand and Cambodia have agreed to resolve a border dispute peacefully "for the sake of our neighbourliness".

Bilateral talks on the issue were held on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe summit (Asem) in Beijing.

The demarcation of land around Preah Vihear temple on the countries' border has never been clearly settled.

Tensions have recently been rekindled, and last week erupted into open combat. Three Cambodian and one Thai soldier died in exchanges of fire.

'Uncontrollable'

Foreign ministers from the two countries spoke to reporters after the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart, Somchai Wongsawat, held talks earlier on Friday.

TEMPLE DISPUTE TIMELINE
1970s-1990s: Khmer Rouge guerrillas occupy site
2001-2002: Thai troops block access over water row
July 2008: Unesco lists temple as a World Heritage Site
July 2008: Thai FM quits after court rules he violated constitution for backing Cambodia's Unesco bid
July 2008: Both sides move troops to temple area
August 2008: Troops withdrawn after high-level talks
October 2008: Fighting erupts around temple area

"We are not just neighbours, we are very good friends indeed," Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornwiwat said.

"His Excellency Hun Sen said the incident that already happened is not the kind that both countries want. It happened instantly. That was uncontrollable at the time."

Mr Sompong added that the two sides had been advised to avoid confrontation.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said: "What happened between us we have to solve peacefully, amicably, for the sake of our neighbourliness."

The military stand-off began in July when Cambodian troops detained three Thai protesters who had entered the site illegally.

The dispute centres on 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple.

An international court awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, but land surrounding it remains the subject of rival territorial claims.

'No quick resolution'

Meanwhile, senior military officials echoed the pledge to reduce tensions as they met in Siem Reap in northern Cambodia.

Both are sides are "committed to exercising their utmost restraint to avoid confrontation or armed clashes", said Cambodian regional army commander Maj Gen Chea Mon, according to AP news agency.

The two sides had agreed to joint border patrols to defuse tensions, but according to AFP news agency these have not materialised.

The BBC's Guy De Launey, in Beijing for the Asem summit, cautions that Thailand's domestic political situation could prove a distraction - and he says Cambodia has indicated it is not expecting a swift resolution.

The issue stirs intense nationalist passions on both sides, and an army recruitment drive in border areas has been over-subscribed, he adds.




SEE ALSO
Small step in Thai-Cambodia talks
16 Oct 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Gunfight on Thai-Cambodia border
15 Oct 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Troops 'to leave border temple'
14 Aug 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Temple row 'to ease after polls'
23 Jul 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Troop build-up at hill-top temple
17 Jul 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Tranquil temple at centre of a storm
22 May 08 |  Asia-Pacific

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