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Thai-Cambodia Clash

An uneasy ceasefire was holding at the border with Cambodia after
fierce fighting left two dead and resulted in the capture of five Thai
rangers.

The two-hour clash
between Thai and Cambodian troops near Phu Ma Khua area of Si Sa Ket
yesterday killed at least two people – one Thai villager and one
Cambodian soldier – and left several people injured.
Troops in nearby border provinces were placed on high alert as the
capture of the five Thai rangers raised fears that the conflict could
widen.
The five soldiers, who were based near Cambodia’s Keo Sikha Kiri Savara pagoda, were detained by Cambodian troops.
The fighting included artillery exchanges and small arms fire, and partially destroyed communities on Thai soil.
The cross-border flare-up erupted about 3.15pm, a few hours after
Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and his Cambodian counterpart Hor
Namhong met in Siem Reap and pledged to avoid violence in resolving
border disputes.

Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith claimed the fighting
erupted when Thai troops ignored warnings to stop crossing into its
territory.
He said the Cambodians shot into the air and the Thai soldiers returned fire.
But Thailand disputed that account.
Army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the clash was triggered by
artillery rounds from the Cambodian side that fell on Thai territory.
“Cambodia didn’t stop and started firing. We had to return fire,” said Col Sansern shortly before the ceasefire.
Cambodia’s artillery shells landed at Ban Non Chaeng and Ban Phum Saron villages, setting fire to four houses.
Charoen Pahom, a resident of Ban Phum Saron, was killed by artillery shells. Thai troops responded with heavy fire.
Houses at Ban Phum Saron in Si Sa Ket’s Kantaralak district burnt down
when artillery landed in the village on the Thai-Cambodian border
yesterday.
In Cambodia, privately owned Bayon TV reported that one Cambodian soldier was killed and five were wounded.
Shelling also damaged the roof of Ban Phum Saron school and the
office of the tambon Sao Thong Chai administrative organisation. It
also set part of the Keo Sikha Kiri Savara pagoda on fire.
Army commander Prayuth Chan-ocha said last night the shelling had now ceased and both sides are maintaining their positions.
Second Army Commander Lt Gen Thawatchai Samutsakhon, who is in
charge of the border area, said: ‘I don’t want to say who started it
because it will only prolong the issue. Let’s say we both are doing
what we’re supposed to do.”
Gen Prayuth said the fresh violence is likely to affect the World
Heritage Committee’s meeting called for June to discuss the development
plan for the Preah Vihear temple, which is close to where the clash
occurred.
Foreign Minister Kasit said the ministry will send a letter to
Unesco and its member countries today calling on them to suspend any
work involving the Thai-Cambodian border because any actions could
intensify the conflict.
Mr Kasit said he held talks with senior Cambodian authorities after
the clashes broke out, and both sides agreed to stop fighting.
‘Both sides have agreed that we will try our best to avoid creating
problems, but when a problem occurs, we have to end it as soon as
possible,” he said.
An army source said reinforcements of three battalions and heavy
arms would be sent to the 4.6 square kilometre disputed area at the
border. About 3,000 troops were deployed before the flare-up.
A source in the border area said the army’s construction of a route
and a bridge across a brook east of Pha Mor E-Daeng cliff has upset
Cambodia.
Thai troops entered the area around noon yesterday.
Cambodia has claimed the area is in its territory and told the army to halt work, said the source.
The source said Cambodia is concerned that the route and the bridge
will provide the Thai army with access to the Keo Sikha Kiri Savara
pagoda and other sensitive areas.
The source said the area is part of the disputed territory and that
Thai troops had occupied the area previously, but withdrew on Dec 1
last year.
According to the source, Cambodia had proceeded with construction of
a 3.6-kilometre access road to Preah Vihear temple despite protests
from Thailand that the work intruded on Thai soil.
Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh yesterday accused the Thai side
of encroaching on Cambodian territory and violating an agreement.
An agreement reached by the Joint Boundary Commission states that construction cannot take place without a joint agreement.
“They [Thais] are saying that Cambodia started the shooting. We
shouldn’t focus on who started it, but on who violated the agreement,”
he said.
Thai army spokesman Col Sansern said the detention of the Thai soldiers might have stemmed from a misunderstanding.
“Those soldiers were sent to stand guard at a joint station with the Cambodians,” he said.
Bangkok Post
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Categories: Local News
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