Home > Local News > Thailand, Cambodia trade shots, charges over ancient temple

Thailand, Cambodia trade shots, charges over ancient temple

(CNN) — Fighting flared for a third straight day Sunday
along the Thai-Cambodian border over a disputed ancient temple despite
a reported ceasefire and international efforts to soothe tensions.
A picture shows the Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province, some
500km north of Phnom Penh, on the border with Thailand, on January 24,
2010.
At
least seven people — two villagers and five soldiers — were wounded
after a new gunfight broke out shortly before 7 p.m. Sunday evening,
Thai Army spokesman Col. Sansern Kaewkamnerd told his nation’s
state-run MCOT media outlet.
The skirmish came a day after the two sides agreed to a ceasefire, according to the official Thai report.
Earlier, Thai Army Lt. Gen. Thawatchai Samutsakorn told MCOT that the situation along the border was returning to normal Sunday.
Several
shops in the Kantharalak district reopened earlier Sunday, and some
villagers had gone back to their homes — though the later report noted
that residents were evacuated again to temporary bunkers. Twenty
schools planned to remain shuttered through at least Wednesday on the
government’s orders.
The clashes stem from a longstanding
conflict related to the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple. The building
sits on a cliff in Cambodian territory, but the most accessible
entrance to the site is on the Thai side.
Gunfire erupted Friday
near the site, followed by more skirmishes Saturday. A Thai Army
spokesman said one soldier was killed Saturday, and four others were
injured. Earlier, the country’s health minister told the MCOT news
agency that one Thai villager was killed by artillery shells fired by
Cambodian troops.
A Cambodian official, who was not named, said
10 of its soldiers and civilians were killed or injured in Friday and
Saturday fighting, state-run Cambodian news outlet AKP reported. The
official said Cambodian authorities had also captured five Thai troops,
including four on Friday.
The United Nations weighed in on the
dispute Sunday, with a statement from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s
press office saying he is “deeply concerned” by the clashes. The world
body’s leader urged discussion over military confrontations, in “a
spirit of dialogue and good neighborly relations.”
“The
Secretary-General appeals to both sides to put in place effective
arrangements for cessation of hostilities and to exercise maximum
restraint,” the U.N. statement said. “The United Nations remains at
their disposal to assist in these peaceful efforts.”
On Saturday, Cambodia
had formally complained in a letter to the U.N. about what it described
as “intense shelling” with mortar rounds Saturday morning following an
alleged armed incursion by Thai troops on Friday, according to
state-run AKP news.
In the letter, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun
Sen pointed to the “explosive situation at the border,” alleging that
300 Thai troops on Friday “entered Cambodian territory and attacked
Cambodian troops at three locations” about 500 meters (a third of a
mile) from the temple. The letter also alludes to similar “acts of
aggression” in 2008 and 2009 by Thai forces.
Besides the human toll, the letter claimed that the temple itself had suffered damage in the shelling and firefights.
“Facing
this flagrant aggression, Cambodian troops had no option but to
retaliate in self-defense in order to safeguard Cambodia’s sovereignty
and territorial integrity,” the letter states.
The recent Thai
military actions violate the 1991 Paris Peace Accord, U.N. Charter and
a 1962 judgment from the International Court of Justice, the letter
claims.
Thai Prime Minister Abhist Vejjajiva denied that his
nation’s troops had attacked Cambodian forces, telling reporters they
only acted in self-defense to protect their homeland’s own sovereignty,
according to MCOT. That report indicated Thailand, too, had sent a
letter to the United Nations about the situation.
On Sunday, the
Thai leader tried to downplay the need for outside intervention to
resolve the dispute, including an offer from ASEAN Secretary-General
Surin Pitsuwan — Thailand‘s former foreign minister and now head of the southeast Asian alliance — to mediate.
The
United States urged Thailand and Cambodia on Friday to show “maximum
restraint.” Events were being closely monitored, according to State
Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, and both sides were called on to
“take all necessary steps to reduce tensions and avoid further
conflict.”
Conflict over the Preah Vihear site has taken place
periodically for years. In 1962, the International Court of Justice in
The Hague, Netherlands, ruled that the site was in Cambodia, adding
that the structure was “an outstanding masterpiece of Khmer
architecture.”
But Thailand says that the 1.8 square-mile (4.6
square-kilometer) area around Preah Vihear was never fully demarcated,
and blames a map drawn at the beginning of the 20th century during the
French occupation of Cambodia.
In July 2008,
the United Nations approved Cambodia’s application to have the temple
listed as a World Heritage Site — meaning the U.N. believes the place
has outstanding universal value.
CNN International
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Categories: Local News
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