Cambodian, Thai troops clash near disputed temple | Pakistan Today

Cambodian, Thai troops clash near disputed temple

PHNOM PENH – Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged heavy fire near a disputed temple on the two countries’ shared border Friday, killing a civilian, officials said as tensions between the neighbours boiled over.
One villager was killed by artillery shelling and five Thai soldiers were injured in the fighting near the ancient Preah Vihear temple area, Thai public health minister Jurin Laksanawisit said. “I have ordered the hospitals along the border to be on standby,” he said.
Chhum Socheat, a spokesman for the Cambodian defence ministry, said that four Cambodian soldiers had been injured, one seriously, and four Thai soldiers had been captured in fighting that lasted for nearly three hours. The area around the temple is claimed by both sides and Cambodian foreign ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said Phnom Penh planned to complain to the United Nations over what it termed the “Thai invasion”.
“We will lodge a complaint with the UN Security Council on Saturday,” he told AFP, adding that Thai soldiers had fired artillery shells some 18 to 20 kilometres (11 to 12 miles) into Cambodian territory. But Thai Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon played down the significance of the incident. “We are negotiating now and I am sure that everything will be fine,” he said.
Both Thailand and Cambodia accused the other of starting the fighting, the first since April 2009. A Thai army official at the border said fighting broke out at 3.10pm local time (0810 GMT) at Phu Makuea, near the 11th-century temple. Residents in several villages along both sides of the border have been evacuated, officials said. Ties between the two countries have been strained since July 2008 by a series of deadly border clashes over land surrounding the temple after it was granted UN World Heritage status. Both sides have been talking tough on the border issue, which some observers say serves nationalist goals at home on both sides.
The World Court ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear itself belonged to Cambodia, although its main entrance lies in Thailand. The exact boundary through the surrounding grounds remains in dispute. The Thai-Cambodia border has never been fully demarcated, partly because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia. Another border spat has focused on the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda, which is built in the disputed area. Thailand on Monday demanded that Cambodia remove its flag from the pagoda, which it said was “situated on Thai territory” – a claim Cambodia vehemently rejects.
The fighting erupted just hours after Thailand’s Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya held talks with his counterpart in Cambodia. Tensions between the two countries have flared in recent weeks in the wake of the arrest of seven Thai nationals for illegal entry into Cambodia in late December.
Five of the group were given suspended sentences and have since returned to Thailand. The other two, high-profile nationalist activist Veera Somkwamkid and his secretary, were sentenced to lengthy jail terms for spying, in a case that has caused outrage among Thailand’s “Yellow Shirts”.

Related posts