Thai Army chief denies troop withdrawal report

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BANGKOK, Sept 19 – Thailand’s Army chief on Monday dismissed reports of a troop withdrawal from the disputed zone near the Preah Vihear temple, saying only that troops outside the area have been redeployed to cut costs.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha stood firm that there was no troop redeployment within the 4.6 kilometre disputed zone.

“It was a normal troop redeployment along the border which falls within my authority and the second army region commander,” the Army chief said.

“Any further move along the border is pending the result of General Border Committee (GBC) meeting between Thailand and Cambodia which will be submitted for the cabinet’s approval,” Gen Prayuth said.

The Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) on July 18 ordered Thailand and Cambodia to withdraw troops from the disputed border region near an ancient temple complex.

The court said in its statement that “both parties should immediately withdraw all their military personnel present in the demilitarised zone and refrain from any military presence in that zone”.

The court said both sides must allow access to observers from the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Tensions had been increasing between Cambodia and Thailand since the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) awarded Preah Vihear World Heritage status in 2008.

The area was the scene of deadly clashes in February and again in April that left more than 20 dead and prompted tens of thousands of civilians to flee.