Sporadic clashes broke out on the tense Thai-Cambodian border yesterday, both sides said, casting doubt on peace efforts as the countries’ bloodiest conflict in decades stretched into a ninth day.
The latest hostilities at two ancient temples on the disputed jungle frontier erupted just hours after Cambodia announced a second truce agreement in as many days, although Bangkok denied knowledge of a new deal.
“Even though there is a recent ceasefire agreement ... Thailand still breached it,” Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters in Phnom Penh.
“There were exchange of firing last night and this morning,” he said. “It shows that we cannot trust our counterpart.”
Thailand said that Friday’s peace talks between commanders from both sides did not amount to a genuine breakthrough in a dispute that has left 16 people dead and displaced more than 85,000 civilians.
“We actually have talked at local officers’ level which I hope will lead to a real ceasefire,” Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said.
Seven Thai troops and eight Cambodian soldiers have died since the clashes began on April 22, and Bangkok has said a Thai civilian had also been killed.
Hor Namhong returned yesterday from The Hague where he submitted a request to the World Court to clarify a 1962 ruling about land around the ancient Preah Vihear temple — an area that has inflamed tensions between the two neighbors.
“The request for the interpretation by the court is a way to resolve the problem peacefully,” he said at Phnom Penh airport.
The court ruled more than four decades ago that the 900-year-old temple belonged to Cambodia, but both countries claim ownership of the 4.6km2 surrounding area.
Thailand said it had hired legal advisors and would fight the case.
The stone structure has been the focus of border tensions since it was granted UN World Heritage status in 2008 and 10 people died in hostilities between the neighbors there in February.
The current unrest is centered around two other contested temple complexes 150km west of Preah Vihear, although there was some fighting at the site itself on Tuesday.
The Thai-Cambodian frontier has never been fully demarcated, partly because it is littered with landmines left over from years of war in Cambodia.