Saturday, April 04, 2009

Cambodia, Thailand clash along disputed border+

By Puy Kea PHNOM PENH, April 3 Kyodo
Cambodian and Thai troops clashed along their disputed border Friday, exchanging artillery, mortar and automatic weapons fire which resulted in the deaths of at least two combatants. Cambodia's chief government spokesman Khieu Khanarith told Kyodo News that four Thai soldiers killed and 10 were captured in the fighting, but no Cambodians died. Earlier in the day, he had cited unofficial reports as saying two Cambodian soldiers died. A spokeswoman of a Thai army hospital in the border area told Kyodo News that two Thai soldiers were killed and another two seriously wounded, while another eight had less serious injuries. Phay Siphan, a spokesman for Cambodia's Council of Ministers, told Kyodo News that following a brief skirmish between Cambodian and Thai troops in the morning, ''full battle'' erupted shortly before 2 p.m. and lasted for over an hour. He said the afternoon fighting took place at three border locations -- in an area known as Eagle Field, in an area 2 kilometers to its west known as Phnom Troap and in an area 2 km to the east of Eagle Field near the disputed Preah Vihear Temple. Negotiations between regional commanders of the two sides ended the fighting at 3:07 p.m., he said. A seller of souvenirs at a Cambodian market located along a stretch of road leading from the Thai border to the main gate of Preah Vihear Temple told Kyodo News the market was burned down by mortar fire. Gen. Srey Dek, Cambodia's frontline commander in the area, told Kyodo News by telephone that he held talks with his Thai counterpart for about two hours following the morning skirmish that lasted only about 5 minutes, ending around 7:15 a.m. He said he told him Cambodia will not ''intrude even 1 inch'' into Thailand but ''neither will it retreat 1 inch'' from its current positions unless Thai troops return to the positions they held before July last year when border tensions first boiled over.
After the negotiations ended, the general said, he had been under the impression that tensions had been defused, but subsequent events show that was not the case. Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told reporters that his government would rather continue negotiations with Cambodia than engage in confrontation with it. He said the latest incident might arise from a misunderstanding which should be resolved through negotiation. Troops from both sides have been facing off along the border near the Preah Vihear temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, since July last year. Fighting in the area last October left dead and injured on both sides.
Last Tuesday, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said he had given a ''green light'' to his military commanders to take action, without seeking his permission, if Thai troops encroach into Cambodia's territory.

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