The foreign ministers of Thailand and Cambodia began bilateral talks Tuesday on how to defuse tensions over a border temple dispute that sparked a military standoff between the two countries last month, dpa reported.
Thai Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag and his Cambodian counterpart, Hor Namhong, met in the Thai beach resort of Cha-am, 110 kilometres south-west of Bangkok, to discuss long-term solutions to the dispute over the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, which has been a flash point for relations between Thailand and Cambodia since the late 1950s.
"All channels are open," Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said before the meeting began. "We want to return the situation to normal and end the confrontation."
Although no specific goal has been set for Tuesday's meeting, it is hoped that it would result in a complete withdrawal of troops from around Preah Vihear, located about 400 kilometres north-east of Bangkok on a cliff that defines the border between Si Sa Khet and Preah Vihear provinces in Thailand and Cambodia, respectively.
Over the weekend, both Thailand and Cambodia withdrew hundreds of troops from around Preah Vihear, each leaving 10 soldiers posted in the contested zone.
The two foreign ministers last met July 28 to try to defuse the temple spat, which was then in danger of turning into a military conflict.
Separate claims on the area surrounding Preah Vihear turned into a military standoff after UNESCO agreed to name the Hindu sanctuary a World Heritage Site.
Although Thailand has long accepted a 1962 ruling of the International Court of Justice that granted Cambodia sovereignty over the temple, it has disputed Cambodia's claim to the area surrounding the temple complex.
Many Thai historians and academics refute The Hague court's ruling, claiming it was based on a faulty 1907 border map drawn up by the French, who were the colonial masters of Cambodia at the time.
The court ruled that since Thailand had not officially objected to the border demarcation placing the temple in Cambodia, it had forfeited the temple, but the court stopped short of ruling on the legitimacy of the French-drawn map's border.
Thailand claims that a 4.6-square-kilometre plot of land adjoining the temple is still disputed.
In fact, the 798-kilometre-long Thai-Cambodia border still has many disputed areas with Preah Vihear being just the most controversial to date.
The Preah Vihear dispute has stoked nationalistic sentiments on both sides on the border.