Saturday, 18 October 2008

Joint patrols at Cambodia, Thai border


Friday, October 17, 2008

THAILAND and Cambodia yesterday agreed to joint patrols of disputed border areas after deadly clashes between the two sides, but made little progress in their months-long 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.

Cambodian 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 there was little headway on the deeper issues of ending the stand-off and withdrawing troops or heavy weaponry from a number of disputed border areas near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple.

"The meeting has not made much progress, but the two sides agreed to stay where they are," Wiboonsak told reporters.

Governments from both countries have said they are seeking to calm the situation and mend relations, and the United States, the United Nations and the European Union have all called for restraint.

Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, meanwhile, said his country was ready to mediate between Thailand and Cambodia.

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 yesterday of smoke inhalation from repeatedly firing his rocket-launcher, said Cambodian Major Meas Yeoun.

The Cambodian army said it had released 13 Thai soldiers yesterday after they surrendered but Thai officials denied any of their troops had been captured.

The situation on the border appeared calmer yesterday as soldiers smiled and exchanged cordial words 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. AFP

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