Cambodia and Thailand has begun withdrawing their military personnel from land near a 11th century temple, which has been at a centre of a dispute between the neighbouring countries.
The move is in compliance with an order from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for the two countries to withdraw their troops from land surrounding the Preah Vihear temple.
According to a press release from the Cambodian government, the withdrawal of troops was the “first step of troop redeployment” from the arena around the Preah Vihear temple.
Cambodia withdrew almost 500 troops, while Thailand moved back their 400 of their troops as well.
The troop withdrawal from both sides from the disputed land around the temple comes one year after the ICJ ruled that a demilitarised zone would be monitored by observers from the Association of South East Asian Nations.
This redeployment should improve the atmosphere on the border,” Thai Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat said after observing the withdrawal.
The temple, known as Preah Vihear in Cambodia and Khao Phra Viharn in Thailand, sits on land that forms a natural border and has been a source of tension for generations.
Although Thailand did not dispute Cambodia’s ownership of the temple, secured by an ICJ 1962 ruling, both sides claimed ownership of the area surrounding the Khmer complex.
The court has also ordered that independent Indonesian observers should be sent into the area to try to keep the peace.
Al Jazeera’s Wayne Hay, reporting from Bangkok, said: “The withdrawal of Cambodian troops is part of the terms of reference through the International Court of Justice. We should expect a final decision later this year.”
The withdrawal was made after Hun Sen, Cambodia’s prime minister, and his Thai counterpart, Yingluck Shinawatra, met last Friday to agree to a redeployment of military personnel in the Provisional Demilitarised Zone (PDZ) surrounding the Preah Vihear temple.
Cambodia and Thailand have had sporadic border conflict over territorial dispute near the Preah Vihear temple since the UNESCO listed the temple as a World Heritage Site in 2008. Thailand claims the ownership of 4.6 square kilometres of land next to the temple.
Fierce clashes between the two sides took place in February and April 2011 over the disputed land.
Preah Vihear, a Hindu temple, is located on the top of a 525 metre cliff in the Dangrek Mountains, about 500 kilometres northwest of Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital.