Thursday, October 16, 2008

Cambodia, Thailand agree joint border patrol but troops remain
16/10/2008 14h30

Cambodian soldiers carry the body of a comrade near Preah Vihear temple©AFP - Tang Chhin Sothy
PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (AFP) - Thailand and Cambodia on Thursday agreed to joint patrols of disputed border areas after deadly clashes, but made little progress toward resolving their long-standing territorial spat.
Senior military officials from both sides met in Thailand the day after gunfights broke out on disputed land near Preah Vihear temple, a UN heritage site on Cambodian territory and the focus of months of tensions.
"We will introduce the joint patrol to avoid this kind of incident happening again," said Lieutenant General Wiboonsak Neeparn, Thailand's northeastern army commander, after the five-hour meeting.

Thailand, Cambodia military talks after deadly border clash. Duration: 00:46©afp.comCambodian defence minister Tea Banh called the outcome "a good result."
"We understood each other," he told AFP. "We cannot patrol individually because it could lead to a misunderstanding."
Officials from both countries said little headway had been made on the deeper issues of ending the standoff and withdrawing troops or heavy weaponry from a number of disputed areas near the 11th century Khmer temple.
"The meeting has not made much progress, but the two sides agreed to stay where they are," Wiboonsak told reporters.

A map locating the Preah Vihear temple©AFP/Graphic
Governments from both countries have said they are seeking to calm the situation and mend relations. The United States, the United Nations and the European Union have all called for restraint.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said his country was ready to act as a mediator.
But officials from both sides continue to insist they did not ignite Wednesday's firefight, which left two Cambodian soldiers dead and two injured, and seven Thai soldiers wounded.
A third Cambodian soldier who had already been ill died early Thursday of smoke inhalation from repeatedly firing his rocket-launcher, said Cambodian Major Meas Yeoun.
The Cambodian army said it had released 13 Thai soldiers Thursday after they surrendered in a disputed area during fighting, but Thai officials denied any of their troops had been captured.

Thai soldiers at a roadblock 9km from the border with Cambodia©AFP - Nicolas Asfouri
The situation on the border appeared calmer Thursday as soldiers smiled and exchanged cordial words, an AFP correspondent there said, while officials from both sides toned down their rhetoric.
Lieutenant General Surapol Puanaiyaka, of Thailand's National Security Council, said there was little danger of outright war.
"I am confident that the situation will not blow out of hand or escalate into full-scale warfare," he said.

Thai soldiers occupied the Preah Vihear temple from 1950 - 1962©AFP - Nicolas Asfouri
Civilians, however, have fled the area, and Thai expatriates and tourists are leaving Cambodia.
A Thai official said that 432 Thais who were in Cambodia when the fighting broke out returned home after Bangkok appealed for anyone not on urgent business to leave.
Cambodian riot police were deployed Wednesday in front of the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, which was set on fire by anti-Thai rioters in 2003.
Cambodian interior ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said undercover police were monitoring Thai businesses to ensure their safety.
"We're protecting all Thai businessmen and citizens in Cambodia in case our people get furious and do something wrong that would not benefit either side," Khieu Sopheak told AFP.

A Cambodian walks past the disputed temple in Preah Vihear©AFP/File - Tang Chhin Sothy
The current standoff first flared in July after Preah Vihear was awarded World Heritage status by the UN cultural body UNESCO, angering some Thai nationalists who claim ownership of the site.
The situation quickly escalated into a military confrontation, with up to 1,000 Cambodian and Thai troops facing off for six weeks, although both sides in August agreed to reduce troop numbers in the main disputed area.
Tensions flared again this week after talks on Monday aimed at cooling the standoff failed.

Up to 1,000 Cambodian and Thai troops have been involved in a tense stand-off for the past six weeks©AFP - Tang Chhin Sothy
The Cambodian-Thai border has never been fully demarcated, in part because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia.
Cambodia on Thursday denied it had recently planted mines in the area near Preah Vihear, with the foreign ministry insisting Phnom Penh adheres to international treaties banning landmines.

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