Thu, Feb 10, 2011 - Page 5 News List

Cambodia and Thailand facing growing pressure

REUTERS, PREAH VIHEAR, CAMBODIA

A Thai soldier gestures next to an army tank brought to a paramilitary camp in Sri Sak Ket Province, Thailand, yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

Thailand and Cambodia faced growing diplomatic pressure yesterday to end an armed standoff on a stretch of border surrounding a 900-year-old clifftop temple as guns held silent for a second day.

Witnesses said about 20 Thai tanks were sent to a military camp in Kantaralak district in Thailand’s Sri Sa Ket Province close to the disputed border, but Thai army officials said they were not reinforcing troops in the area.

Thailand and Cambodia blame each other for provoking intense exchanges of fire that killed at least three Thais and eight Cambodians since Friday. At least 34 Thais and 55 Cambodians were wounded, according to official statements from both sides.

Diplomats at the UN Security Council said it was possible the 15-nation body would discuss the issue next week after Washington, China and ASEAN issued statements urging both sides to show restraint.

Bilateral talks could take place in New York, possibly on Monday when Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya is to brief the Security Council, said his spokesman, Thani Thongpakdi. His Cambodian counterpart, Hor Namhong, is also due in New York.

“There is a possibility that the two will meet on the sidelines,” Thani said, adding that this year’s ASEAN chair, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, will also be in New York.

Thailand and Cambodia are both members of ASEAN, which plans to form a European-style single market by 2015 and has urged bilateral talks to end the fiercest fighting on the disputed border since the early 1990s, when Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge forces operated in the area.

At the border, Thai and Cambodian soldiers held fire for a second day after a clash on Friday set off four days of fighting in the 4.6km2 contested area around the Preah Vihear temple claimed by both countries.

“The situation remains calm, but what happens next depends on the Thai troops,” Cambodian Army Deputy Commander Chea Dara said.

Cambodian troops continued to dig trenches around the temple.

Three Cambodian soldiers -interviewed yesterday said the -number of Cambodians killed was likely higher than the government has indicated. They declined to be identified by name because they were not authorized to comment.

“There are many more deaths and injuries. People would be shocked,” said one of the soldiers, adding that his deputy commander was killed in a clash on Sunday when a Thai shell hit the area near their unit.

Their statements could not be immediately confirmed by the -Cambodian government.

In Cambodia’s northern frontier areas, schools and temples have been turned into makeshift refugee centers.

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