Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Foreign ministry: Military may defend from Cambodian fire at border temple

BANGKOK, Oct 27 (TNA) -- Thai soldiers posted at the disputed Thai-Cambodian border had every right to defend themselves when fired on by Cambodian troops in the vicinity ofthe 11th century Preah Vihear temple earlier this month, said Virasakdi Futrakul, permanent secretary for the Thai Foreign Ministry, on Monday.

Charging that Cambodia had moved several hundreds soldiers fully-equipped for combat and supporting artillery to the vicinity of the temple, Mr. Virasaki said the foreigh ministry investigate a complaint lodged by Cambodia with the UN accusing Thai troops of firing on and damaging the temple during an exchange of gunfire between troops of the two neighbouring countries on October 15. One Thai paramilitary ranger and three Cambodian soldiers died in the clashes on that day.

On Sunday, Phay Siphan, spokesman for Cambodia's Council of Ministers, told French news agency AFP in Phnom Penh that a staircase and a sculpture of the mythical Naga creature were damaged by rocket fired by Thai troops at the temple ruins during the mid-October shoot out.
Cambodia filed its complaint with UNESCO within days of the incident.

But Mr. Virasakdi countered the charges, saying that Cambodian troops fired rocket propelled grenades from the temple at Thai soldiers and if that was the case then the Thai soldiers had full rights to defend themselves.

He said his ministry is checking how many Cambodian soldiers are stationing around Preah Vihear temple and whether it violates the World Heritage convention.

UNESCO has to verify it and it is unnecessary for Thailand to lodge a complaint on this issue to the organisation, Mr. Veerasak said. Touching on an initial agreement reached by senior Thai and Cambodian soldiers last week which will be presented to the Thai Parliament Tuesday for its approval so that border negotiations could resume with Phnom Penh, Mr. Virasakdi said Parliament will only consider issues that both sides would negotiate.

If approved, negotiations could be held around mid-November, he added. (TNA)

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