Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Gunfire at the border

Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat urged Thai nationals in Cambodia to leave for home immediately after a Wednesday afternoon military battle along the disputed border.

"Thai businessmen who have no need to be in Cambodia now, please rush back to Thailand," Sompong told reporters.

"We have our evacuation plan ready," he added.

His statement came after troops reportedly exchanged gun fire for about 10 minutes at the border of Kantalak district, Si Sa Ket province at around 2.30pm.

Cambodia’s Preah Vihear governor Prieb Tan claimed that Thailand started shooting at the Cambodian army first. Thai army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd, said only that the army was verifying information and would hold a press conference later on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Col Sansern reiterated that Thailand would not shoot first, but warned that Thai troops were ready if Cambodian forces encroach into Thailand. The Thai army is ready to confront any incident to protect the country’s sovereignty, he said.

Meanwhile, Thailand put air force fighter jets and C-130 transport planes on alert. The C-130s have been used in a previous operation to bring Thais back home from Phnom Penh.

"Normally we have fighter jets on stand-by at various regional headquarters ready for operation within five minutes, but under the current circumstances we have increased our readiness," Grp Capt Montol Suchookorn was quoted by the AFP news agency.

"I do hope the use of force is the last resort,"

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