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Cambodia, Thailand to pull troops from temple

  • Story Highlights
  • Cambodia, Thailand to redeploy some troops away from the site of a border temple
  • Two sides plan to discuss issue of who the land around the temple belongs to
  • Flare-up began when Cambodian guards detained three Thais who entered area
  • Cambodia claims Thailand sent troops to retrieve the trio and built up their numbers
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(CNN) -- Cambodia and Thailand have agreed to redeploy some troops away from the site of a border temple at the center of a tense military standoff in its second week.

Thai soldiers take a rest near the Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province.

Thai soldiers take a rest near the Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province.

The decision came after the two sides met to resolve the impasse.

Government officials from both nations plan to meet again to decide how many troops will remain at the site of the Preah Vihear temple, the Thai News Agency reported Monday.

At a later meeting, the two sides plan to discuss how to tackle the thorny issue at the center of the ongoing dispute -- the question of whether land around the temple belongs to Thailand or Cambodia.

The 11th century temple sits atop a cliff on Cambodian soil but has its most accessible entrance on the Thai side. The two countries differ on whether some territory around the temple forms part of Thailand or Cambodia.

The decision to redeploy troops took place after a Monday meeting in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Last week, an eight-hour meeting between Thai and Cambodian officials ended with both sides agreeing on only one point: that troops each country has amassed at the site of the temple will not fire on each other.

The International Court of Justice awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962. Thailand claims, however, that the 1.8 square mile (4.6 sq. km) area around it was never fully demarcated.

Thailand says the dispute arose from the fact that the Cambodian government used a map drawn during the French occupation of Cambodia -- a map that places the temple and surrounding area in Cambodian territory.

This month, the United Nations approved Cambodia's application to have the temple listed as a World Heritage Site -- a place the U.N. says has outstanding universal value.

The decision re-ignited tensions, with some in Thailand fearing it will make it difficult for their country to lay claim to disputed land around the temple.

Opposition parties in Thailand used the issue to attack the government, which initially backed the heritage listing.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has been in power since 1985, portrayed the U.N. recognition as a national triumph in the run-up to the general elections.

Analysts believe that the nationalist sentiments stirred up by the military standoff helped Hun Sen's ruling party win enough seats in Sunday's parliamentary elections so that it can form a government without the need for a coalition.

The current flare-up began July 15, when Cambodian guards briefly detained three Thais who crossed into the area. Once they were let go, the three refused to leave the territory.

Cambodia claims Thailand sent troops to retrieve the trio and gradually built up their numbers. Thailand denies that, saying its troops are deployed in Thai territory.

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