Cambodia has halved the number of troops around an ancient border temple that has been the scene of bloody clashes with Thailand, the defence ministry said on Sunday.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen declared last week that the 13-month standoff with Thailand over the disputed Preah Vihear temple complex, which claimed more than seven lives and left hundreds homeless, had effectively ended following a bilateral withdrawal of troops announced during a meeting on August 24 between the head of RCAF, General Pol Saroeun, and his Thai counterpart, General Songkitti Jaggabatra of the Royal Thai Armed Forces.
'We have pulled out 50 per cent of the troops from Preah Vihear temple,' said Chhum Socheat, spokesman for the Ministry of National Defence.
Hun Sen last week said Thailand had withdrawn all except 30 soldiers on the border, meaning that Cambodia could stand some troops down and send them back to their provincial bases.
'We still have enough troops remaining to protect our territory,' said General Chea Dara, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.
He said if Thailand 'shows a softer manner' they could cut the numbers further. 'However, if anything happened, our troop mobility would be very swift.'
In June, Thailand reignited the row over the temple when it asked world heritage body UNESCO to reconsider its decision to formally list the temple in Cambodia.
Cambodia and Thailand have been at loggerheads over the land around the Preah Vihear temple for decades. Although the World Court ruled in 1962 that it belonged to Cambodia, the most accessible entrance to the 11th century Khmer temple is in northeastern Thailand.
There have been several skirmishes between the two countries on the disputed frontier around the temple since the ruins were granted UN World Heritage status in July 2008.
The last gunbattle in the area in April left three people dead while clashes there in 2008 killed another four people. The border between the two countries has never been fully demarcated, in part because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia.
Nevertheless, the foreign ministries of the two neighbours maintained peaceful means to resolve the dispute through the Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary (JBC). The JBC met last November, February and April to set a framework on boundary demarcation and provisional arrangements for the disputed area near Preah Vihear.
Cambodia cuts troops at temple, 31 August 2009,
Troops exit temple complex, 31 August 2009,
Cambodia halves border troops, 30 August 2009,