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Fresh Thai-Cambodia border talks

By Jonathan Head
BBC News, Bangkok

Soldiers close to Preah Vihear temple on the disputed Thai-Cambodia border on 17 October
Troops are still facing each other in the disputed zone

Senior Thai and Cambodian officials have started two days of negotiations over their disputed border.

It is the first high-level meeting since their armed forces clashed near an ancient temple last month, causing the deaths of three soldiers.

Thailand has selected one of its most experienced officials to head its team for this meeting.

It is an attempt to break the deadlock over the 800km (500-mile) border - but progress is predicted to be slow.

The dispute centres on a small piece of land around the ancient temple at Preah Vihear, but has now spread to other parts of the border.

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August 2008: Troops withdrawn after high-level talks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

Cambodia stands by a map drawn up a century ago by French cartographers, which clearly puts the temple and the surrounding land inside its territory.

It was this map that Cambodia used in its successful case at the International Court of Justice in 1962.

Thailand argues that it never recognised the map, and that while it accepts the ICJ verdict on the temple itself, the area next to it is still disputed.

Troops from both countries are now confronting each other from trenches dug recently in this strip of land.

The talks could make some headway by reducing the tensions between the two sides, and thus the likelihood of repeated clashes.

But with nationalist sentiment now fired up in both countries, neither government is yet ready to make the concessions necessary for a permanent demarcation of their troubled border.



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