Friday, April 22, 2011

Thai-Cambodian Border clashes erupt again

Thai Foreign Ministry, Army blame intrusion for latest bout of fighting, leaving 4 soldiers dead; Supreme Commander sees Cambodian ploy to hasten stationing of observers on border

Thailand and Cambodia traded diplomatic salvos yesterday evening after a new border skirmish left several people dead and prompted a massive evacuation effort on the Thai side.

Four Thai soldiers were killed and 13 others wounded in the clash that broke out with Cambodian troops on the border of Surin province. After 20,000 Thai villagers were evacuated to safety, the Foreign Ministries on both sides opened a diplomatic row, with Thailand accusing Cambodian troops of launching "unprovoked attacks".

The gunbattle began at dawn at Temple of Ta Kwai in tambon Bakdai in Phanom Dong Rak district between patrols from both sides with small arms used, before artillery fires from Cambodia began, and the areas of fighthing expanded to Temple of Ta Moan Thom in tambon Tamiang. The fourhour gunfight ended at 10.30 am, through mediation between local commanders.

Yesterday's skirmish was a second after a gunfight near Preah Vihear Temple in Buri Ram in February, which saw a number of Thai soliders and civilians killed and wounded. The Foreign Ministry said later the clash was prompted by Cambodian troops' trespass into a 100metrewide buffer zone.

"What happened will not affect ongoing ThailandCambodia Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) process," said ministry spokesman Thanee Thongphakdee. Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said he hoped that the fighting would not worsen or expand, nor would it had any affect on a World Heritage meeting in France in June.

Supreme Commander General Songkitti Jakkabart said the gunfight was a ploy by Cambodia to hurry up involvement of Indonesia observers, who have been bound to take part in demaraction and working out dispute over Preah Vihear temple.

The fallen and wounded soldiers were attached to three local companies of paramilitary Rangers under the Suranaree Taskforce.

In a Royal Thai Army statement, the fight began after a group of Cambodian troops entered the restricted zone and were digging foxholes. They opened fire on Thai troops who told them to stop and withdraw. The artillery fires then came from Cambodia and there was an exchange of them, which had reduced and stopped by around 8 am. The smallarms gunfights continued sporadically until 10.30 am, said Colonel Sirijan Ngathong, a deputy spokeswoman.

As a result of the fighting, Chong Chom border pass in Surin province had been ordered closed by the Army, starting at 10am on Monday. Cambodian troops have reportedly moved heavy weapons to an area near Temple of Ta Kwai two days ago.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong has sent letters on Friday to the United Nations Security Council and Indonesia, the current chair of Asean to draw attention of the international and regional community to the latest clash between Thai and Cambodian troops, Xinhua reports.

The clash reoccured just more than two months after the deadly clash on Feb. 47 at the border disputed area next to Preah Vihear temple, the World Heritage Site. Cambodia claimed that Thai troops have trespassed and staged an attack on the base of Cambodian troops along the border from Ta Krabek temple to Chhub Koky in Oddar Meanchey province at about 6 am.

Cambodian defense ministry's spokesman Lt Gen Chhum Socheat said in a morning briefing that since early this morning up to now the fighting still continues after Thai side took a short pause at around lunch time.

He did not give the official number of casualties at the briefing. However, Neak Vong, the deputy commander of brigade 42 at Ta Mon Thom temple, told Xinhua by telephone that the interim figure recorded that three Cambodian troops were killed and one was injured.

Thailand's Foreign Ministry said in a statement Cambodia had launched "unprovoked attacks". " Thailand protest in the strongest terms the unprovoked armed attacks on both Thai military and civilians, and the construction of the bunkers which is a clear violation of international law, the Charter of the United Nations, as well as the 2000 Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Thailand and the Government of Cambodia on the Survey and Demarcation of Land Boundary," the statement said.

"Thailand reaffirms its commitment to resolve any pending boundary issues peacefully and calls on Cambodia to resolve the dispute through the existing bilateral mechanisms." The Nation, Bangkok

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