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UPDATE: Fighting on Cambodian border

Cambodian Soldiers. Photo by kohsantepheapdaily

Two or three Thai soldiers were wounded in an
exchange of fire with Cambodian troops on Friday afternoon on the
Thai-Cambodian border, and artillery rounds landed on Thai soil well
inside the frontier, an informed military source said.

The clash started  about 3.20pm near the disputed 4.6 square kilometre area around the Preah Vihear temple.
Fighting was continuing, the source said. Heavy weapon rounds had landed on the Thai side of the border,
Lt-Gen Tawatchai Samutsakhon, 2nd Army commander, said it was Cambodian troops who started the fire.
Many artillery shells landed at Huay Thip village in tambon Rung of
Si Sa Ket’s Kanthararak district, north of the Preah Vihear temple and
about 1km from Phu Makhua mountain, which is part of the disputed area.
Two or three Thai soldiers were reported wounded.  Casualties on the Cambodian side were not known.
From Phnom Penh, AFP reported:
Thai and Cambodian soldiers have
clashed near a disputed temple on the two countries’ shared border,
officials from both nations told AFP, amid increasing tensions between
them.
“A clash is ongoing”, said Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith without elaborating.
A Cambodian soldier stationed near the ancient Preah Vihear temple,
which is claimed by both sides, told AFP by telephone fighting had
broken out. Gunfire could be heard in the background.
Reports said artillery was being used, but it was not clear by which side, or whether both were doing so.
A Thai army official at the border also confirmed the skirmish,
which follows reports of a military buildup on both sides of the border
in recent days.
He said fighting broke out at 3.10pm local time (0810 GMT) at Phu Makuea, near the 11th-century temple.
“The fighting is still going on,” the official said. “We don’t have any details or casualties yet.”
Residents in nine villages along the Thai side of the frontier have
been asked to take shelter or leave the area, said a senior district
official at Kantharalak in the border province of Si Sa Ket.
“I can still hear artillery shelling but don’t know from which side,” he said.
The border clash occurred not long after Foreign Minister Kasit
Piromya said in Siem Riep on Friday morning that Thailand and Cambodia
have reached agreement not to blow up the dispute over the national
flags put up in their disputed border area near Pheah Vihear temple.
The  announcement followed talks between Thai Foreign Minister Kasit
Piromya and his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong in Siem Reap,
Cambodia, on the sidelines of Thai-Cambodia Joint Commission (JC)
meeting on Friday.
Mr Kasit said afterwards they have agreed not to blow up the dispute
over the flags and not to incite their people into hatred for each
other.
In addition, the two countries would continue efforts to ease border
tension by continuing  demarcation  negotiations through the Joint
Boundary Commission (JBC).
Thailand earlier demanded that Cambodia remove both the Keo Sikha
Kiri Svara pagoda and the Cambodian flag flying over the pagoda gate,
while reasserting that the pagoda is on Thai territory. Thai troops
also erected the Thai national flag in the disputed area in response.
Mr Kasit said he would visit the two yellow-shirt Thai activists,
Veera Somkwankid and Ratree Pipatanapaiboon, who were sentenced by a
Cambodian court to eight and six years in jail repectively for
espionage, and discuss with them what further help can be provided by
the government.
In a related development, the legal team of the Thai Patriots
Network (TPN) will meet on Tuesday to discuss ways of helping Mr Veera
and Ms Ratree then file an appeal on Feb 11 against the court verdict.
Chaiwat Sinsuwong, a TPN core member, said both Mr Veera and Ms
Ratree were both insistent that they were not arrested on Cambodian
soil, but the Foreign Ministry wanted them to accept the court’s ruling
that they were guilty as charged.
Karun Saingam, who is a member of the legal team, said the appeal
would be submitted to the court on Feb 11 along with a bail request.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the People’s
Alliance for Democracy (PAD) should begin talks with the government to
promote understanding, instead of only mounting attacks, concerning the
Cambodian issues.
Mr Abhisit said if the government and the PAD could exchange
opinions and help to each other, he believed it would be much easier to
settle the ongoing disputes with Cambodia.
The prime minister said while the PAD was putting pressure on the
government, Cambodia had sent a letter to the World Heritage Committee
asking it not to allow Thailand host a World Heritage Committee
meeting, because people in Thailand had called for the government to
withdraw from the World Heritage Committee.
“If we join forces, it would be easier to for us to deal with Cambodia,” Mr Abhisit said.
“Cambodia has taken the opportunity given by our internal discord to
tell the World Heritage Committee that Thailand should not be allowed
to host next year’s meeting of the committee, reasoning that the Thai
people want the government to withdraw from it.
“An abrupt withdrawal from the committee would not be good for our efforts to protect our interests,” Mr Abhisit said.
The prime minister insisted it is necessary for the government to
continue its membership of the World Heritage Committee.  Thailand
should not admit defeat or make an abrupt withdrawal from the
committee, he added.
Mr Abhisit said the government’s attempts to reach an understanding
with the PAD were going in a favourable direction, but declined not to
go in details.
On the PAD’s planned rally on Saturday, the prime minister said
everyone should bear in mind that if the situation developed in an
unfavourable way it would not be good for the country.
He reaffirmed that the PAD protesters would not be allow to intrude into the Government House compound.
Pol Maj-Gen Wichai Sangprapai, commander of the Metropolian Police
Division 1, said 17 companies of police will be assigned to control
Saturday’s planned mass rally by the PAD.
More checkpoints will be set up along routes leading to the protest site on Ratchadamnoen Nok avenue.
He had talked with PAD leaders, who said the protesters would not leave to site and move to somewhere else on Saturday.
Bangkok Post
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Categories: Local News
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