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Cambodian Official Says 'Little Hope' for Fast Resolution of Border Dispute


The border standoff between Cambodia and Thailand remains tense ahead of high-level talks on Monday. A commander on the Cambodian side expressed doubts that the talks will lead to a resolution of the dispute over ownership of an ancient temple complex. Liam Cochrane reports from Preah Vihear temple, on the Cambodia-Thai border.

Thai and Cambodian soldiers sit side-by-side on the Cambodian road that leads to the disputed ruins of Preah Vihear temple.

Hundreds of Cambodian soldiers and military police patrolled the area around the temple, while Thai soldiers stayed close to the barbed wire that marks the jungle border, setting up small camps on the Cambodian side.

The two forces have faced off for several days, after three Thai protesters were detained for illegally crossing the closed border, prompting Thai forces to cross after them.

The 900-year-old Hindu temple was recently given World Heritage status, renewing a decades-old dispute over who owns the temple.

Brigadier Chea Keo is the deputy commander of the Cambodian Military Region. Sitting on a cliff overlooking Thailand, he said he had orders to be patient, but expressed doubts that talks Monday between the two countries' defense ministers would yield results.

He says, "We have little hope for the meeting tomorrow, because the Thai government sent a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen saying that the places occupied [by Thai soldiers] are Thai territory."

Brigadier Chea Keo said around 300 Thai troops remained around a modern temple just below the ancient ruins of Preah Vihear temple. He said a further 200 Thai soldiers occupied small camps along the Cambodian side of the border.

Cambodian officials would not say how many troops they had gathered in the area, but one soldier said 500 former Khmer Rouge fighters had been brought in from the northwest, and hundreds of military personnel were visible.