The Defence Ministry will not discuss the withdrawal of Thai troops from the disputed area near the Preah Vihear temple ruins during the Thai delegation's visit to Phnom Penh today.

Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon made clear the stance yesterday in response to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's condition that he would discuss the temple issue only if it concerned the withdrawal of Thai soldiers.

The Thai delegation of about 15 officials, including Gen Prawit and Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, is set to arrive in Phnom Penh today for talks after Thailand protested against the Unesco's World Heritage Committee's decision to register the Hindu temple ruins unilaterally on behalf of Cambodia last year.

Mr Suthep said yesterday he would go to Cambodia as planned on a mission to clarify with Hun Sen Thailand's objections to the listing of the Preah Vihear temple ruins.

He said his trip was aimed at strengthening bilateral ties.

Gen Prawit told reporters that Thai troops had to remain in the 4.6-square-kilometre area around Preah Vihear because it belonged to Thailand and both nations had reached an agreement that the land dispute would be handled by the Joint Boundary Committee (JBC).

About 3,000 Thai soldiers entered the disputed area on July 15 last year after Unesco listed the Preah Vihear temple on behalf of Cambodia.

"The Thai cabinet considers Unesco as a peace-oriented organisation. The rules and regulations that govern the World Heritage listing must be recognised by both countries.

"We believe that Unesco failed to observe the rules and regulations, so we must protest against Unesco and demand it respond," Gen Prawit said.

In response to reports of Cambodia's military reinforcements in the area, army chief Gen Anupong Paojinda said yesterday that Thailand would not start any violent actions and would not be reckless.

Lt Gen Wibulsak Neepal, commander of the 2nd Army, said Cambodia had deployed a number of soldiers and heavy weaponry and its forces in the area were nearly double those of Thailand's.

However, he confirmed that Thai soldiers there were prepared for any eventuality
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