Thai, Cambodian troops clash near Preah Vihear temple

Discussion in 'West Asia & Africa' started by youngindian, Feb 4, 2011.

  1. youngindian

    youngindian Senior Member Senior Member

    May 6, 2009
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    SI SA KET, Feb 4 - Fighting between Thai and Cambodian troops broke out on Friday afternoon along the border near the disputed Preah Vihear temple and artillery shells fell into Thailand's Si Sa Ket province.

    The latest skirmish between the troops of the two neighbours occurred just hours after Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya met with his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong for bilateral talks on the ongoing border dispute and help for the two Thais jailed in a Cambodian prison after being convicted of illegal entry and spying.

    Ten artillery shells landed in Bhumsrol village in Kantararak district in the afternoon as troops from both countries fired at the other at Phu Makua Hill near the stairway to the ancient temple, forcing the evacuation of local residents along the border. Local media said students, teachers and villagers at Bhumsrol village ran for cover in nearby prepared makeshift bunkers after artillery shells landed just a kilometre from their village.

    The cause of the fighting is not yet clearly known but French news agency Agence-France-Press (AFP) quoted Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith as saying the fighting erupted after Cambodians fired warning shots into the air to warn Thai troops to stop crossing into their territory but the Thai soldiers returned fire.

    Thai army spokesman Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd told TV Thai that initial reports from local Thai military saying the clash began after an artillery shot fired from Cambodia that landed on Thai territory. Thai troops then returned fire as a warning.

    “We don’t want to say that it was Cambodia who started firing at us first as it will be like trading accusations against each other,” Col Sansern said. "It is initially believed that it could have been caused by a misunderstanding.”

    The Thai army spokesman said the Thai army chief and other senior military officers have been in contact with their peers in Cambodia to prevent the fighting escalate. There has been a report of casualties but the number remains unclear.

    Until now, no casualties of both sides have yet to be reported, but smoke from fire was obviously seen in the area and gunshots were still being heard.

    Col Sansern pledged Thai troops will ensure safety for Thais living near the clash area and protect Thai sovereignty.

    Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, who oversees national security, said he and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva have been informed of the clash, but he declined to go into detail, saying he is awaiting further confirmed information about the matter.

    Mr Suthep however reaffirmed Cambodian soldiers opened fire at the Thai troops first and Thai soldiers had no choice but fire them back in self-defence.

    At Sa Kaeo province bordering Cambodia’s Poi Pet, Cambodian traders were rushing back to their country after the fighting erupted.

    The market was chaotic for a while as the report of fighting frightened the traders. (MCOT online news)

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