Thailand and Cambodia reach deal on temple border

A Cambodian soldier stands near Cambodia's famed Preah Vihear temple.
Image caption The International Court of Justice has ordered troops from both sides to leave the area

Cambodia and Thailand have agreed to withdraw their troops from a disputed border area near the ancient temple of Preah Vihear.

The deal was reached after Thai Defence Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapha met his Cambodian counterpart, Tea Banh, in Phnom Penh.

A territorial dispute over a patch of land around the temple has sparked deadly clashes between the two nations.

In April, fighting left 18 people dead and tens of thousands displaced.

The International Court of Justice ordered both sides to remove troops from the disputed area in July - but neither has complied.

Indonesian observers

According to a joint statement, both countries agreed to set up a working group on "redeployment of their military personnel completely and simultaneously from their current positions in the provisional demilitarised zone at the earliest".

The withdrawal will take place in the presence of Indonesian observers, the statement added, according to AFP news agency.

Thailand does not dispute Cambodia's ownership of the World Heritage-listed temple, but both sides claim some of the surrounding area.

Tension had been increasing between Cambodia and Thailand since Unesco awarded Preah Vihear World Heritage status in 2008.

In April 2009, soldiers exchanged fire across the disputed border.

More serious trouble flared in February 2011, when at least eight people were killed in several days of fighting.

The violence moved westwards to another set of temples in April, before shifting back to Preah Vihear, as widespread clashes forced tens of thousands to flee.

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