Thursday, 16 October 2008

Cambodia says it has released Thai troops

THE NEWS
Thursday, October 16, 2008

PREAH VIHEAR: A Cambodian commander said Thursday his country had released 13 Thai soldiers who surrendered during a deadly border shoot-out, although Thailand denies they were ever in custody.

Major General Srey Deok, commander of Cambodian troop operations in the disputed border area, said they had agreed to release the Thai soldiers after talks Thursday with senior Thai military officials.

"We handed their weapons back to them already," Srey Deok said, adding that the troops had been released and allowed to walk around the disputed area.

Thailand, however, has maintained that none of their troops was captured by Cambodia.

"They are not Thai," said Lieutenant General Wiboonsak Neeparn, Thailand's northeastern army commander, after the meeting with Cambodian officials.

Two Cambodian soldiers were killed and several troops wounded on both sides when fighting broke out Wednesday on disputed land near an 11th century Khmer temple, a UN World Heritage site on Cambodian territory.

Cambodia and Thailand have been sparring over land near the temple since July, and tensions soared this week after about 80 Thai troops entered a disputed area, enraging Cambodia.

Thailand, Cambodia Working to Resolve Border Dispute

Cambodian soldiers patrol on the road up to the famed Preah Vihear temple, Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, near Thai border, 16 Oct 2008

By Kate Pound Dawson B
angkok
16 October 2008

Dawson report - Download (MP3) Dawson report - Listen (MP3)

Thailand and Cambodia are renewing diplomatic efforts to end a border dispute centering on an ancient temple complex. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the two nations to use restraint after a clash that left soldiers on both sides of the border wounded and two Cambodians dead. VOA's Kate Pound Dawson in Bangkok has more.

Officials from both nations are making clear they do not want the dispute to escalate. Military commanders were meeting, Thursday morning, near the border to find ways to avoid new violence.

Both sides accuse the other of starting the Wednesday shooting that left several soldiers injured.

The dispute concerns land around the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple. In 1962, the International Court of Justice granted sovereignty over the temple to Cambodia, but a main access route to it lies in Thailand. For decades, a lingering disagreement over the area was nearly dormant, but it revived in July when Thai nationalists protested Cambodia's successful request to have the temple declared a U.N. World Heritage site.

Talks on the dispute ended unsuccessfully, Monday, and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen then declared that Thai troops had crossed the border.

Sunai Pasuk, the Thailand representative for Human Rights Watch, says international concerns rose after Mr. Hun Sen issued an ultimatum to Thailand to pull back its troops.

"I believe that Thailand has the world community on its side," said Sunai. "So, this fact needs to be considered by Hun Sen."

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concern about the fighting and has called on both countries to peacefully resolve the dispute.

In Washington, the U.S. State Department also urges both governments to avoid violence.

It is not clear exactly what sparked this week's shooting. However, fear that the conflict may widen has prompted about 400 Thais to leave Cambodia, after Bangkok urged citizens to return home if they did not have urgent business across the border. And, hundreds of Cambodians are reported to be leaving their homes near the temple.

Indonesia proposes to raise Thailand-Cambodia conflict in next ASEM Summit

www.chinaview.cn
2008-10-16

JAKARTA, Oct. 16 (Xinhua) -- Indonesia President Susilo BambangYudhoyono has suggested to put the issue of border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia onto the agenda of Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Beijing next week.

The suggestion was made following the rising tension between the two countries in the border, which on Wednesday turned to counter shooting between their soldiers.

"With the rising tension in the border, the president proposes to bring the issue on the ASEM summit," said Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda.

At the beginning of this month, soldiers from the two countries exchanged fire at the disputed area, injuring several of them, while two Thai para-military rangers lost their legs after stepping on landmines there.

Preah Vihear Temple, known as Phra Viharn in Thailand, was named a World Heritage Site at a UNESCO meeting in Quebec, Canada this year despite Thai opposition to the listing.

The ancient Hindu temple, sits on a 525-metre-high cliff on the Dangrek Mountain range that defines the Thai-Cambodian border, has been the source of sovereignty dispute for decades.

Editor: Du Guodong

Thai general says Cambodia border patrol deal reached

Thu 16 Oct 2008

By Chor Sokunthea

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (Reuters) - Thailand and Cambodia appeared to take steps to end a border dispute on Thursday, with a Thai general saying the two sides had agreed to conduct joint military patrols.

There was no immediate comment from the Cambodians, who a day earlier lost two soldiers in the most serious clash between the countries in years.

After five hours of talks with his Cambodian counterpart, Thai regional commander General Wiboonsak Neeparn said both sides would keep their troops and heavy weapons near the disputed 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple.

"We did not make much progress. Troops on both sides will stay where they are," he told reporters.

The Hindu temple has stirred nationalist passions in both countries for generations, but officials on both sides have toned down their belligerent rhetoric since the fighting on Wednesday.

"Our policy to resolve this conflict is through negotiations," Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat told reporters in Bangkok.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has stayed silent, but his foreign minister urged negotiations, saying the incident was between soldiers and "not an invasion by Thailand."

But people on the streets of Phnom Penh were angry.

"We need to defend our land. We must not lose to the Thais," said security guard Bun Roeun, 36, flicking through newspaper reports of the clashes. "If the Thais continue their attempt to cross our border, I am ready to join the army to fight back."

The confrontation comes amid great political instability and an economic slowdown in Thailand, as protesters in a long-running Bangkok street campaign urge the army to launch a coup against the elected government.

"It's hard to see how Cambodia gains from starting a war with Thailand at this point," said Tony Kevin, a former Australian ambassador to Phnom Penh.

"But if you look at the very tense and riven state of Thai politics, it's easy to see how a Cambodian war could be of interest as a distraction," he said.

China and the United States expressed concern over the violence and urged both sides to use restraint.

DECADES-OLD DISPUTE

The International Court of Justice awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, a ruling that has rankled Thais ever since.

However, it failed to determine the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the stunning but remote Hindu ruins, which have been off-limits to tourists for months.

The dispute over this small parcel of land became highly politicised in Thailand in July when protesters trying to overthrow the Bangkok government adopted it as a cause.

Some 2,000 soldiers faced off only yards apart in trenches dug into a hillside that 10 years ago was controlled by remnants of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot's guerrilla army.

In Anlong Veng, the site of Pol Pot's grave about 100 km (60 miles) west of the temple, the main road was clogged by hundreds of Cambodians on motorbikes and small tractors laden with chairs, pots and other belongings.

There has been no word on the exchange of 10 Thai prisoners at the temple, whose existence Bangkok continues to deny.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said the group, who were photographed by a Reuters journalist under Cambodian guard, would be returned to Thailand if Bangkok requested it.

Bangkok has urged its citizens to leave Cambodia, mindful of the 2003 torching of its embassy and Thai businesses in Phnom Penh by a nationalist mob incensed by a row over Angkor Wat, another ancient temple.

In 2003, Thai commandos flew into Phnom Penh airport in the middle of the night to help evacuate 600 Thais during the riots.

Security was beefed up outside the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, but there were no crowds outside and it was operating as normal, a Thai official told Reuters.

Several big Thai companies have operations in Cambodia and some have pulled out Thai nationals, but they said operations were normal.

Thailand's political crisis has damaged consumer confidence and consumption at a time when exports are sluggish due to the global economic slowdown.

A top adviser to Thailand's finance minister said on Wednesday the country risked sinking into recession in the first half of 2009 if the political stalemate did not end soon.

(Additional reporting by Nopporn Wong-Anan in Kantaralak, Ek Madra in Phnom Penh, Ed Cropley in Bankgok; Writing by Darren Schuettler; Editing by Alan Raybould and Jeremy Laurence)

Thailand-Cambodia agree to joint border patrols

Cambodian soldiers patrol on the road up to the famed Preah Vihear temple, Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, near Thai border Thursday, Oct. 16, 2008. Thai and Cambodian troops faced off at a disputed border zone as military officials from both sides headed for urgent peace talks, a day after a deadly gunbattle erupted near an 11th century temple.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
Yahoo News
AP Associate Press

BANGKOK, Thailand - A Thai military official says Cambodia and Thailand have agreed to joint patrols at a disputed border to reduce the tension that a day earlier erupted into a gunbattle.

Thai army spokesman Col. Sansern Kaewkumnerd said the two sides agreed that joint patrols could "reduce chances of a misunderstanding that could lead to another clash."

The agreement came during talks between military commanders from both countries a day after the clash between troops at a disputed border killed at least two Cambodian soldiers and wounded 10 from both sides.

Cambodia's army commander said the two sides "agreed to prevent further armed clashes" but that talks would continue over the border dispute.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (AP) — A Cambodian army official says Thai and Cambodian military commanders have agreed to stop fighting a day after a deadly gunbattle between troops at a disputed border.

The two sides held talks in Thailand's Sisaket province across the border from Cambodia a day after a clash between Thai and Cambodian troops that killed at least two Cambodian soldiers and wounded 10 from both sides.

The commander, Maj. Gen. Srey Doek, declined to give details of the talks. He said the two sides planned to continue negotiations, indicating that matters still needed to be resolved in a decades-long border dispute.

Wednesday's clash was the first deadly fighting since tension flared four months ago in a long-standing dispute over land near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple.

Cambodia - News : day after fighting - 16.10.2008

Thailand asks Cambodia to use bilateral solution in border dispute

BANGKOK, Oct 16 (TNA) – Thailand called on Cambodia to use bilateral forums to resolve the border dispute and reaffirmed that Thailand is committed to using peaceful means to solve the border dispute, Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said Thursday.

Responding to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's urging that Thailand and Cambodia exercise utmost restraint and that the two countries expedite bilateral talks so their differences can be resolved peacefully, Mr. Tharit said Thailand was committed to restraint and bilateral negotiations to solve the border dispute when Cambodia brought the issue to multilateral forums, ASEAN and the United Nations Security Council in July.

Mr. Tharit, Director-General of the Department of Information, added that Thailand maintained its stance to resolve differences at bilateral talks.

"When the economic problem is doomed, why do we have to waste money and our personnel on that issue. It's non-sense to exercise power to end row. We reaffirm again and again that we exercise restraint and finally the two sides have to return to peaceful negotiations. Please do not use provocation." he said.

Thailand won't start the fight and will use only the same level of weaponry to return the fight to avoid further violence and worsen the situation, even the kingdom has more advanced armaments, he said. (TNA)
A Thai soldier secures a road block near the border with Cambodia
Cambodian soldiers move into position near Preah Vihear temple

Cambodian soldiers carry the body of a comrade near Preah Vihear temple
PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (AFP) — Cambodian and Thai military officials were to meet Thursday in a bid to prevent more clashes a day after a deadly border shoot-out which prompted hundreds of Thai expatriates to return home.

Thai and Cambodian military officials were scheduled to hold talks at 11:00 am (0400 GMT) in Thailand to discuss troop levels and weaponry, as both governments said they were seeking to calm the situation and mend relations.

Gunfights broke out Wednesday in a number of small plots of disputed land near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, a UN World Heritage site on Cambodian territory and the focus of months of tensions.

"My government still sticks to negotiation, although the clash was not serious," Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat told reporters.

Cambodian foreign minister Hor Namhong said that the situation along the border had eased since Wednesday, and that diplomats from both countries met in Bangkok shortly after fighting erupted.

"The Thai ministry of foreign affairs asked the Cambodian embassy in Thailand for a meeting and there was a good conversation," Hor Namhong said.

Two Cambodian soldiers were killed in Wednesday's clashes and several from each side were wounded. Thailand said Thursday that seven of its soldiers were hurt.

A third Cambodian soldier died early Thursday of smoke inhalation from repeatedly firing his rocket-launcher, Cambodian troops along the border said. There was no immediate official confirmation.

The situation on the border appeared calmer Thursday as soldiers smiled and joked, an AFP correspondent there said, but civilians have fled the area.

Some 432 of about 1,500 Thais living in Cambodia also returned to Thailand after the Bangkok government appealed for anyone not on urgent business to leave, an official said.

"We have convinced them to return on a Thai Airways flight," said foreign ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat.

Cambodian riot police were deployed Wednesday in front of the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, which was set on fire by anti-Thai rioters in 2003, in case of reprisals.

Cambodian and Thai officials have disputed who started Wednesday's clashes, which prompted calls for calm and restraint from both the United States and UN.

The Cambodian army has also said it is holding 13 Thai soldiers prisoner after capturing them in a disputed area during fighting, but Thai military and foreign ministry denied any of their troops had been captured.

The current stand-off between the neighbours first flared in July after Preah Vihear was awarded World Heritage status by the UN cultural body UNESCO, angering some Thai nationalists who still claim ownership of the site.

The situation quickly escalated into a military confrontation, with up to 1,000 Cambodian and Thai troops facing off for six weeks, although both sides in August agreed to reduce troop numbers in the main disputed area.

Tensions flared again this week after talks on Monday aimed at cooling the months-long standoff failed.

The Cambodian-Thai border has never been fully demarcated, in part because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia.

UN asks Thailand, Cambodia to expedite peace talks

ZEENEWS.COM

United Nations, Oct 16: Expressing concern over the exchange of fire along the Thai-Combodian border, the United Nations has asked both the neighbours to expedite talks to resolve differences.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed "deep concern" over yesterday's gunfire between the soldiers of the two countries near a disputed ancient temple.

"He calls on both parties to exercise utmost restraint and urges them to expedite bilateral talks so that their differences can be resolved peacefully," Ban's spokesperson said.

Media reports say two people were killed during the exchange of fire between Thai and Cambodian soldiers near the Preah Vihear Temple, which was enlisted among the World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) in July.

Since then the military forces have been build-up from both sides along the border. Ban had called for restraint earlier also.

The 11th century temple was recognised by the World Heritage Committee for "its natural situation on a promontory, with sheer cliffs overlooking a vast plain and mountain range; the quality of its architecture adapted to natural environment and religious function of the temple and finally the exceptional quality of the carved stone ornamentation of the temple."

Bureau Report

Thai and Cambodian armies meet




Thai soldiers prepare a 105mm artillery gun near the Thai-Cambodian border, in the disputed border area with Cambodia, near the Preah Vihear temple, in Si Sa Ket province, northeast of Bangkok, October 16, 2008. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom
Thursday October 16

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (Reuters) - Thai and Cambodian army commanders held talks across their disputed border Thursday after the most serious clash in years killed two Cambodian soldiers and left 10 Thais in Cambodian hands.

Hundreds of Cambodian civilians fled the border area after Wednesday's 40-minute exchange of rocket and gunfire, as both sides rushed armour and troops to the conflict zone.

The 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple has stirred nationalist passions in both countries for generations, but escalation did not appear inevitable as officials avoided belligerent rhetoric.

"Our policy to resolve this conflict is through negotiations," Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat told reporters in Bangkok as the talks got under way near the temple.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has said nothing since the clash, in which two Cambodians and five Thais were wounded. His foreign minister said it was "not an invasion by Thailand."

But people on the streets of Phnom Penh were angry.

"We need to defend our land. We must not lose to the Thais," said security guard Bun Roeun, 36, flicking through newspaper reports of the clashes. "If the Thais continue their attempt to cross our border, I am ready to join the army to fight back."

The confrontation comes amid great political instability and an economic slowdown in Thailand, as protesters in a long-running Bangkok street campaign urge the army to launch a coup against the elected government.

"It's hard to see how Cambodia gains from starting a war with Thailand at this point," said Tony Kevin, a former Australian ambassador to Phnom Penh.

"But if you look at the very tense and riven state of Thai politics, it's easy to see how a Cambodian war could be of interest as a distraction," he said.

DECADES-OLD DISPUTE

The International Court of Justice awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, a ruling that has rankled Thais ever since.

However, it failed to determine the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the stunning but remote Hindu ruins, which have been off-limits to tourists for months.

The dispute over this small parcel of land became highly politicised in Thailand in July when protesters trying to overthrow the Bangkok government adopted it as a cause.

Some 2,000 soldiers faced off only yards apart in trenches dug into a hillside that 10 years ago was controlled by remnants of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot's guerrilla army.

In Anlong Veng, the site of Pol Pot's grave and about 100 kms (60 miles) west of the temple, the main road was clogged by hundreds of Cambodians on motorbikes and small tractors laden with chairs, pots and other belongings.

At the temple, a Reuters photographer saw three armoured vehicles and five trucks arrive loaded with Cambodian troops.

There has been no word on the exchange of 10 Thai prisoners at the temple, whose existence Bangkok continues to deny.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said the group, who were photographed by a Reuters journalist under Cambodian guard, would be treated properly and returned to Thailand if Bangkok requested.

Bangkok has urged its citizens to leave Cambodia, mindful of the 2003 torching of its embassy and Thai businesses in Phnom Penh by a nationalist mob incensed by a row over Angkor Wat, another ancient temple.

In 2003, Thai commandos flew into Phnom Penh airport in the middle of the night to help evacuate 600 Thais during the riots.

Security was beefed up outside the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, but there were no crowds outside and it was operating as normal, a Thai official told Reuters.

Several big Thai companies have operations in Cambodia and some began evacuating their staff Wednesday, but flights between the neighbours continued as normal.

Thailand's political crisis has damaged consumer confidence and consumption at a time when exports are sluggish due to the global economic slowdown.

A top adviser to Thailand's finance minister said on Wednesday the country risked sinking into recession in the first half of 2009 if the political stalemate did not end soon.

(Additional reporting by Nopporn Wong-Anan in Kantaralak, Ek Madra in Phnom Penh, Ed Cropley in Bankgok)
(Writing by Darren Schuettler; Editing by Alan Raybould and Paul Tait).

Q+A-Cambodia-Thailand border dispute - what next?

Source: Reuters
By Ed Cropley

BANGKOK, Oct 16 (Reuters) - Thai and Cambodian military commanders held talks across their disputed border on Thursday after the most serious clash in years left two Cambodian soldiers dead and 10 Thais in Cambodian hands.

The following Q+A, based on interviews with regional diplomats and analysts, examines some of the main issues:

Who/what is behind the sudden outbreak of shooting?

Both sides accuse the other of firing first. Even without the rhetoric and propaganda, it would be next to impossible to get to the bottom of the initial contact between troops who have been facing off for months in jungle-clad, hilly terrain.

Analysts say it is more helpful to consider who stands to gain. By that measure, the Thai army and government, who are both under pressure from a street movement that inflamed a border dispute around the Preah Vihear temple, have questions to answer.

"It's hard to see how Cambodia gains from starting a war with Thailand at this point," said Tony Kevin, a former Australian ambassador to Phnom Penh and now a visiting fellow at the Australian National University in Canberra.

"But if you look at the very tense and riven state of Thai politics, it's easy to see how a Cambodian war could be of interest as a distraction," he said.

Will it get worse?

It is hard to see it escalating into an all-out war.

Thailand's vastly superior forces would be sure to win but would sustain casualties against a determined force of mainly ex-Khmer Rouge guerrillas who know the terrain and, more importantly, where millions of old landmines are buried.

As a richer country of 63 million people taking on a deeply impoverished nation of 13 million, Thailand would also be seen internationally as the aggressor if the conflict grew.

There is little prospect of it dying down altogether.

The Thai government and military have very little scope to back off given the domestic political situation in Bangkok, where street protesters accuse the government of selling off Thai soil, and criticise the army for not launching a coup.

Hun Sen is in a much stronger position domestically, having won an election landslide in July to add to his two decades in power. The wily ex-Khmer Rouge soldier knows that any perceived weakness against an old enemy will damage his standing. Who might step in to calm things down?

Singapore and Jakarta have both called for restraint, suggesting the immediate referee could the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Thailand and Cambodia are both members.

But Cambodia feels ASEAN is compromised at present due to Thailand holding of the 10-member body's annually rotating chair. The organisation's current secretary-general, Surin Pitsuwan, is also a Thai.

The conflict would have to escalate significantly before the U.N. Security Council got involved. The United States is also preoccupied with a financial crisis and presidential election.

China increasingly sees itself as an actor in this corner of Southeast Asia, but whether it gets involved remains unclear.

(Editing by Darren Schuettler and Paul Tait) Got a Question this hasn't answered?
Reuters Messaging: edward.cropley.reuters.com@reuters.net ; +66 2 648 9722

Stung Cambodians say ready to take on Thailand

Source: Reuters
By Ek Madra

PHNOM PENH, Oct 16 (Reuters) - An eruption of fighting on the Thai-Cambodian border triggered a wave of patriotism in the Cambodian capital on Thursday, with many ordinary people saying they were willing to take up arms to protect their country.

"We need to defend our land. We must not lose to the Thais," security guard Bun Roeun, 36, said as he sat at a street-side stall, flicking through newspapers plastered with coverage of Wednesday's clashes near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple.

"If the Thais continue their attempt to cross our border, I am ready to join the army to fight back," he said.

After eight centuries of decline, from the mighty Khmer empire that built Angkor Wat and dominated the region to a small, war-scarred nation sandwiched between Thailand and Vietnam, Cambodians are very touchy about their territory.

The country's precise area -- 181,035 square km -- is drummed into every schoolchild, and any perceived squeezing of its borders is taken as a personal affront by many of its 13 million people.

"You have to defend your house," said 48-year-old motorbike taxi driver Chea Sokean, 48. "If the Thai troops want to steal our house, we have to chase them away."

"We can't stand and watch the Thai army take our land," another 48-year-old, Yos Kan, said.

Such sentiments limit the room for manoeuvre for Prime Minister Hun Sen, even though the wily former Khmer Rouge guerrilla won an election landslide in July to add to his two decades in power.

Newspapers were awash with the Cambodian claims of Thai aggression -- just as Thai papers were awash with the exact opposite -- and Kampuchea Thmei (New Cambodia) ran an editorial headlined "Ready for Sacrifice".

Phnom Penh has admitted that two of its soldiers died in the fighting. Both sides are sending reinforcements in the form of armour and artillery to the border, raising fears of an escalating and wider conflict. [nBKK406647]

However, Rasmei Kampuchea, Cambodia's largest circulation paper, also ran a front-page government appeal for Thai businesses and people to be left alone in the capital.

The exhortation is a far cry from 2003, when a nationalist mob torched the Thai embassy and around a dozen Thai businesses in Phnom Penh in a row over Angkor Wat, Cambodia's most potent national symbol.

(Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Alan Raybould and Valerie Lee)

Thai-Cambodian border quiet as two sides meet

Bangkok (dpa) - The Thai government Thursday rebuffed a Cambodian claim that it was an unreliable and biased chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) as the two sides are locked in a bitter border dispute.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said other members of the 10-country body would understand Thailand's restraint and probity on the issue.

Two Cambodian soldiers were reportedly killed in an exchange of gunfire and 10 Thai soldiers allegedly captured Wednesday afternoon after the two countries accused each other of stepping over previously agreed lines around a 900-year-old Hindu temple, ownership of which has been disputed for decades.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said Wednesday that his country had been forced to bypass Asean in seeking an impartial mediator because Thailand was currently in the chair, which is held by rotation. He accused Thailand of provoking Wednesday's brief firefight about 3 kilometres from Preah Vihear temple.

Thailand's troubled government, under siege by opponents who accuse it of corruption and undermining the monarchy, is scheduled to host Asean's annual meeting in December.

Mr Hor Namhong hinted the association chair might be taken away from Thailand. Cambodia last month said Thailand's political instability and bias might make it an unsuitable chair.

Mr Tharit said that Thailand had overwhelming military superiority but had nevertheless acted in a sober and responsible manner. The 40-year-old organization surely did not expect its members to agree on everything, he added.

Foreign diplomats eyeing the spat said the Thai government is under intense pressure to flaunt its patriotic credentials to blunt the claims of its opponents who claim it is a puppet of the controversial exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The Cambodian government is similarly steeped in prickly nationalist rhetoric under the rule of its authoritarian Prime Minister Hun Sen, the diplomats added.

The border conflict was calmed in August when both sides agreed to settle the matter through bilateral talks held by a joint border committee, but those talks have since stalled amid Thailand's chaotic domestic political situation.

The Thai foreign ministry this week urged Thais to leave Cambodia for fear of a repeat of riots in 2003 that saw the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh burnt down in a nationalist upsurge triggered by alleged insults made by a Thai actress about Cambodia.

Fresh fighting on Thailand, Cambodia border

Picture from Preah Vihear

Cambodian soldiers sit on an armored vehicle at Sraem village in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh, October 16, 2008. Thai and Cambodian troops fired rockets and small arms at each other on a disputed stretch of border on Wednesday, killing two Cambodians and prompting Bangkok to tell its citizens to return home. Both sides accused each other of firing first in the clash, which comes amid huge political instability in Bangkok, with protesters in a long-running street campaign urging the army to launch a coup against the elected government.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodian soldiers sit in a truck at Sraem village, Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh, October 16, 2008. Thai and Cambodian troops fired rockets and small arms at each other on a disputed stretch of border on Wednesday, killing two Cambodians and prompting Bangkok to tell its citizens to return home. Both sides accused each other of firing first in the clash, which comes amid huge political instability in Bangkok, with protesters in a long-running street campaign urging the army to launch a coup against the elected government.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A military vehicle is seen at Sraem village in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh, October 16, 2008. Thai and Cambodian troops fired rockets and small arms at each other on a disputed stretch of border on Wednesday, killing two Cambodians and prompting Bangkok to tell its citizens to return home. Both sides accused each other of firing first in the clash, which comes amid huge political instability in Bangkok, with protesters in a long-running street campaign urging the army to launch a coup against the elected government.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodian soldiers sit on an armored vehicle at Sraem village in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh, October 16, 2008. Thai and Cambodian troops fired rockets and small arms at each other on a disputed stretch of border on Wednesday, killing two Cambodians and prompting Bangkok to tell its citizens to return home. Both sides accused each other of firing first in the clash, which comes amid huge political instability in Bangkok, with protesters in a long-running street campaign urging the army to launch a coup against the elected government.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodian soldiers sit on an armoured vehicle at Sraem village, as they travel to Prah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh, October 16, 2008. Thai and Cambodian troops fired rockets and small arms at each other on a disputed stretch of border on Wednesday, killing two Cambodians and prompting Bangkok to tell its citizens to return home. Both sides accused each other of firing first in the clash, which comes amid huge political instability in Bangkok, with protesters in a long-running street campaign urging the army to launch a coup against the elected government.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodian soldiers stand guard near the bodies of two soldiers who were killed during an exchange of gunfire between Cambodia and Thai troops on Wednesday, at Sraem village in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh October 16, 2008. Thai and Cambodian troops fired rockets and small arms at each other on a disputed stretch of border on Wednesday, killing two Cambodians and prompting Bangkok to tell its citizens to return home. Both sides accused each other of firing first in the clash, which comes amid huge political instability in Bangkok, with protesters in a long-running street campaign urging the army to launch a coup against the elected government.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Family members weep near the bodies of the two Cambodian soldiers who died during the exchange of gunfire between Cambodian and Thai troops on Wednesday, during their funeral at Sraem village in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh October 16, 2008. Thai and Cambodian troops fired rockets and small arms at each other on a disputed stretch of border on Wednesday, killing two Cambodians and prompting Bangkok to tell its citizens to return home. Both sides accused each other of firing first in the clash, which comes amid huge political instability in Bangkok, with protesters in a long-running street campaign urging the army to launch a coup against the elected government.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodian soldiers stand guard near the site where two soldiers were killed during an exchange of gunfire between Cambodia and Thai troops on Wednesday, at Sraem village in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh October 16, 2008. Thai and Cambodian troops fired rockets and small arms at each other on a disputed stretch of border on Wednesday, killing two Cambodians and prompting Bangkok to tell its citizens to return home. Both sides accused each other of firing first in the clash, which comes amid huge political instability in Bangkok, with protesters in a long-running street campaign urging the army to launch a coup against the elected government.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A woman sits on the side of the road, as dozens of families evacuating the northern Cambodia border create a make-shift camp, about 120 km (75 miles) northeast of Siem Reap, October 16, 2008. Thai and Cambodian military commanders prepared for talks across their disputed border on Thursday after the most serious clash in years left two Cambodian soldiers dead and 10 Thais in Cambodian hands. Hundreds of Cambodian civilians were fleeing the border area after Wednesday's 40-minute exchange of rocket and gunfire, a Reuters photographer said, as both sides rushed armour and troops to the conflict zone. There has been no word on the exchange of 10 Thai prisoners, whose existence Bangkok continues to deny.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

A woman breastfeeds her infant, as dozens of families evacuating the northern Cambodia border line the roadside with their belongings, about 120 km (75 miles) northeast of Siem Reap October 16, 2008.(Adrees Latif/Reuters)

A woman rests in her cart, during an evacuation from the northern Cambodian border with dozens of other families, about 120 km (75 miles) northeast of Siem Reap, October 16, 2008.(Adrees Latif/Reuters)

A girl sits among poultry and luggage in the back of a cart, as her family evacuates from the northern Cambodia border about 120 km (75 miles) northeast of Siem Reap, October 16, 2008. Thai and Cambodian military commanders prepared for talks across their disputed border on Thursday after the most serious clash in years left two Cambodian soldiers dead and 10 Thais in Cambodian hands. Hundreds of Cambodian civilians were fleeing the border area after Wednesday's 40-minute exchange of rocket and gunfire, a Reuters photographer said, as both sides rushed armour and troops to the conflict zone. There has been no word on the exchange of 10 Thai prisoners, whose existence Bangkok continues to deny.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

A woman sits on top of a chair in the back of a cart, as dozens of families evacuating the northern Cambodia border line the roadside, about 120 km (75 miles) northeast of Siem Reap October 16, 2008. Thai and Cambodian military commanders prepared for talks across their disputed border on Thursday after the most serious clash in years left two Cambodian soldiers dead and 10 Thais in Cambodian hands. Hundreds of Cambodian civilians were fleeing the border area after Wednesday's 40-minute exchange of rocket and gunfire, a Reuters photographer said, as both sides rushed armour and troops to the conflict zone. There has been no word on the exchange of 10 Thai prisoners, whose existence Bangkok continues to deny.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

Families evacuating the northern Cambodia border line the roadside, about 120 km (75 miles) northeast of Siem Reap, October 16, 2008. Thai and Cambodian military commanders prepared for talks across their disputed border on Thursday after the most serious clash in years left two Cambodian soldiers dead and 10 Thais in Cambodian hands. Hundreds of Cambodian civilians were fleeing the border area after Wednesday's 40-minute exchange of rocket and gunfire, a Reuters photographer said, as both sides rushed armour and troops to the conflict zone. There has been no word on the exchange of 10 Thai prisoners, whose existence Bangkok continues to deny.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

A boy peers out of the back of a truck full of families evacuating the northern Cambodia border, about 120 km (75 miles) northeast of Siem Reap, October 16, 2008. Thai and Cambodian military commanders prepared for talks across their disputed border on Thursday after the most serious clash in years left two Cambodian soldiers dead and 10 Thais in Cambodian hands. Hundreds of Cambodian civilians were fleeing the border area after Wednesday's 40-minute exchange of rocket and gunfire, a Reuters photographer said, as both sides rushed armour and troops to the conflict zone. There has been no word on the exchange of 10 Thai prisoners, whose existence Bangkok continues to deny.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

A girl lies on a cart, as dozens of families evacuating the northern Cambodia border line up along the road, about 120 km (75 miles) northeast of Siem Reap October 16, 2008.(Adrees Latif/Reuters)

A couple carry their belongings on a bike while evacuating the northern Cambodia border, about 120 km (75 miles) northeast of Siem Reap, October 16, 2008. Thai and Cambodian military commanders prepared for talks across their disputed border on Thursday after the most serious clash in years left two Cambodian soldiers dead and 10 Thais in Cambodian hands. Hundreds of Cambodian civilians were fleeing the border area after Wednesday's 40-minute exchange of rocket and gunfire, a Reuters photographer said, as both sides rushed armour and troops to the conflict zone. There has been no word on the exchange of 10 Thai prisoners, whose existence Bangkok continues to deny.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

Govt: Asean won't take sides

(BangkokPost.com) - Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat believed member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) have enough understanding on the Thai-Cambodian border dispute, and they would not take sides, as the Cambodian government claimed.

Earlier on Thursday, Cambodia’s Foreign Minister Hor Namhong accused Asean for taking side with Thailand following the brief gunfire between the two countries at the disputed border area near Preah Vihear temple on Wednesday.

Mr Tharit said all countries have their own judgment and freedom to carry out their foreign policies.

Asean has existed for 40 years, comprising both old and new members, and different views could happen, the foreign spokesman added.

Commenting on who incited the armed confrontation on Wednesday, Mr Tharit said Thailand did not start the gunfight even though the country has better arms. He said Thailand does not want violence to erupt and escalate, and called for Cambodia to return to bilateral talks.

Calm morning on border after Thai and Cambodian military clash

BANGKOK, Oct 16 (TNA) - Villagers in the northeastern province of Si Sa Ket bordering Cambodia returned to normal life Thursday morning after skirmishes between Thai and Khmer soldiers near the ancient Khmer Preah Vihear temple on Wednesday that left two Cambodians dead and five Thai soldiers wounded.

Kantararak district of Si Sa Ket province was close to the disputed temple which was the major area under dispute and was also near the scene of fighting between the two countries' soldiers.

Residents of seven villages that were in the evacuation plan to avoid the impact of the fighting were living as normal as the evacuation will not begin unless heavy weapons are used in the fighting.

During the night, there was no reinforcement from the Thai military after the fighting stopped at around 7 pm Wednesday night.

Talks were scheduled to take place between the two sides at 11 am Thursday at Preah Vihear temple to ease tensions and find to ways to resolve the military confrontation.

The Thai team will be led by Second Region Army Commander Lt-Gen. Viboonsak Neepal.

In Bangkok, 20 police reinforcements guarded the Cambodian embassy since Wednesday night to ensure the safety of the premise.

Pol. Maj-Gen Wimon Pao-in, chief of Bangkok Police Subdivision 4, ordered patrol police and the police guard stationed at the embassy to especially observe motorcycles as he feared that young people with motorcycle may cause disturbances and unrest to show their anger over the clash.

(TNA)

More than 400 Thais flee Cambodia after border clashes

Channel News Asia
Asia Pacific News

16 October 2008

BANGKOK: More than 400 Thais have fled Cambodia after a deadly border clash between troops from the two countries, a Thai foreign ministry spokesman said Thursday.

No official evacuation plan is in place, but the ministry has urged all Thais not on urgent business to come home. Spokesman Tharit Charungvat said that 432 of about 1,500 Thais in Cambodia have so far heeded the warning.

"We have convinced them to return on a Thai Airways flight," Tharit said, adding that they arrived home on Wednesday.

Military transport planes remain on stand-by in case an evacuation plan needs to be implemented, he added.

Two Cambodian soldiers were killed and a handful from each side wounded Wednesday after a three-month dispute over patches of land near Cambodia's ancient Preah Vihear temple boiled over into gunfights.

Senior military officials from both sides are due Thursday to sit down and try and ease tensions, but there are fears in the Cambodian capital of a repeat of anti-Thai riots that broke out in January 2003.

A dispute over ownership over another temple sparked a night of riots in Phnom Penh that saw Thailand's embassy and several Thai-owned businesses burned and looted, prompting Thai military planes to fly in to rescue their nationals.

Cambodia and Thailand have until recently enjoyed good relations, with many Thai businesses investing in the neighbouring country as economic growth there reaches double digits. - AFP/yt

Border dispute may hurt trade: Cambodian official

www.chinaview.cn
2008-10-16

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 16 (Xinhua) -- With violence erupting on the Cambodia-Thai border, government officials and investors warned that the dispute could affect bilateral trade, tourism and investment between the two countries, the Phnom Penh Post reported Thursday.

"Imports of Thai goods have declined lately because many Thai business people fear they will not be able to collect payment from Cambodian whole sellers should the situation on the border deteriorate," Mao Thora, secretary of state at the Cambodian Ministry of Commerce, was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying.

Kong Bunly, the trade director for Banteay Meanchey province, said cross-border with Thailand has remained largely unaffected by the dispute over territory around Preah Vihear, but that Thai tourists have stopped crossing into Cambodia.

Meanwhile, an employee at the Thai Plastic Company who asked not to be identified said she is concerned that any armed confrontation between the two countries could affect her company.

"I'm really worried about this because Cambodian people could stop buying Thai products if fighting breaks out," she told the Post.

"This crisis absolutely impacts Thai business in Cambodia and Cambodian employees employed by Thai companies," she said, adding that her manager had already returned to Thailand because of the border crisis.

Two Cambodian soldiers were killed and several Cambodian and Thai troops were wounded during Wednesday's gunfire exchange between the two neighbors.

Editor: Xia

More troops at Thai-Cambodian border

(BangkokPost.com) - More Thai troops were reinforced at the Thai-Cambodian disputed border area near the 11th century temple of Preah Vihear on Thursday.

About three to four trucks loaded with Thai soldiers were travelling near the site where Thai and Cambodian army engaged in an armed confrontation for about 10 minutes on Wednesday afternoon.

The Commander of the Second Army Region, Lt-Gen Viboonsak Neepal, together with the Commander of Suranaree Task Force, Maj-Gen Kanok Netrakavaesana, visited the Thai soldiers at the border area on Thursday morning.

At the same time, villagers living nearby the Thai-Cambodian border area continued to monitor the situation between both sides closely and prepared for possible evacuation, should new violent clashes occur.

Gov't to guarantee safety of Thais living in Cambodia

Cambodian troops sit near the body of a comrade at Sekha Kirisvarak pagoda near the disputed 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh October 15, 2008. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

www.chinaview.cn
2008-10-16

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) -- Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, has asked to the provincial authorities to take care and guarantee the safety of Thai businesspeople and civilians living in the country, the Raksmey Kampuchea Daily reported on Thursday.

"We need to avoid any violence against them, even both troops had armed clash Wednesday at the border area," he was quoted by the Khmer-language Raksmey Kampuchea Daily as saying.

"I just wrote to inform all our provincial and city governors near the border to keep the good relationship as normal and protect all the Thais," he said, adding that about 1,000 Thais live in Phnom Penh and about 800 in Siem Reap province.

Cambodian side needs no weapon conflict, but both sides just couldn't avoid it Wednesday, he said.

Cambodia has to defend the Veal Intry area, 2,000 meters to the west of the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara Pagoda which is situated on the only way leading to the ancient Preah Vihear Temple, he said.

"The government considers the Veal Intry area as the main location for reaching the Preah Vihear Temple. If we lose the VealIntry area, we lose the temple," he said.

Thai troops withdrew from the Veal Intry area Tuesday, but came back Wednesday, and our troops didn't allow them to go further, he said.

"Then, Thai troops started shooting at our troops, and the armed clash occurred at the area," he added.

During the two-hour clash Wednesday at the border area, two Cambodian solders were killed and two injured, while ten Thai soldiers were detained by the Cambodian side, said Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Namhong at a press conference held at his ministry late Wednesday.

Cambodia tightened the security around the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh and the Thai side did the same thing around the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok, he added.

Regional military commanders from both sides are scheduled to hold meeting Thursday in Thailand in order to find a peaceful solution for the months-long military face off and confrontation over border dispute.

In July, tensions ran high after the ancient Preah Vihear Temple was awarded world heritage status by UNESCO, angering nationalists in Thailand who still claim ownership of the site.

The tension later turned into a military stalemate, in which up to 1,000 Cambodian and Thai troops faced off for six weeks. In mid-August, most troops withdrew and only a few dozen soldiers stationed near the temple.

Bilateral talks to discuss withdrawing troops from around the temple were postponed late August amid political turmoil in Thailand.

In October, at least one Cambodian soldier and two Thai troops were wounded during an exchange of gunfire and two other Thai soldiers were seriously injured after stepping on a landmine at the border area.

Editor: An

Cambodia accuses Asean for taking side

(BangkokPost.com) - Cambodia’s Foreign Minister Hor Namhong held a press conference on Thursday, accusing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) for taking side with Thailand following the brief gunfire between the two countries at the disputed border area near Preah Vihear temple on Wednesday.

According to the Cambodian minister, Thailand is scheduled to host the 14th Asean Summit in 2008, and it is therefore necessary for Cambodia to find a mediator on the escalating border row.

Mr Hor Namhong insisted the Thai troops were the ones who opened fire at the Cambodian soldiers on Wednesday afternoon. However, Cambodia will be tolerant and the country has the right to defend itself as well, he concluded.

British ambassador suggests peaceful means to solve political problem

Thaindian News
October 16th, 2008
by Amrit Rashmisrisethi

Mr. Quinton Mark Quayle, the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland ambassador to Thailand, urged all parties concerned in the Thai politics to jointly resolve political conflict through peaceful means, suggesting all should cling to democracy.

He also suggested on Wednesday (October 15) that Bangkok and Phnom Penh to hold bilateral talks to end the two nations’ border conflict.

Mr. Quayle, said after meeting with opposition Democrat party leader, Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva, that as the UK has had close relationship with Thailand, he felt regrettable over October 7’s clash between police and the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) being tarnished with violence. He also believed that all nations with amicable attitude towards Thailand would also feel sorrowful for the clashes.

The British ambassador also urged relevant factions in the Thai politics to solve prevailing political problems peacefully and take into account the democracy.

Regarding border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia, the British ambassador said he discussed the matter with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Sompong Amornwiwat, adding he suggested Mr. Sompong that both nations should adopt conciliatory approach to resolve the problem as they were neighboring nations.

He added that he also raised the issue while talking with Mr.Abhisit. However, Mr. Quayle declined to reveal the details.

Source : National News Bureau, Public Relations Department of Thailand

Foreign Affairs clarifies Thai-Cambodian border tension to international communities

Thaindian
October 16th, 2008
by Amrit Rashmisrisethi

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has distributed memorandums on the Thai-Cambodian border tension to foreign countries. Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs Virasakdi Futrakul (วีระศักดิ์ ฟูตระกูล) says Thailand is ready to clarify the situation at the conflict area in any forum.

The permanent secretary reports that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has explained the Thai-Cambodian border dispute to member countries of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and permanent members to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The ministry has also assigned Thai embassies worldwide to clarify Thailand’s stance on the situation to the governments of all countries if Cambodia files a petition with the UNSC for its intervention.

The latest news reports that three permanent members of the UNSC, including the U.S., China, and Russia, have voiced their support for the use of bilateral mechanism to tackle the conflict at Preah Vihear. However, the permanent secretary says Thailand will hire an international legal consult if Cambodia brings the case to the International Court of Justice.

Mr Virasakdi states further that Cambodia’s goal is that Thailand withdraws all military personnel from Preah Vihear and the area along the border there and accepts Cambodia’s map drawn by France.

Since the government of Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, Thailand has stood firm that the Preah Vihear verdict by the International Court of Justice grants the temple to Cambodia but not approves the demarcation of the overlapping area in line with the map. The permanent secretary therefore says Thailand and Cambodia must settle the demarcation issue by themselves, adding that Thailand does not want to request the UN to help resolve the conflict as it sticks to bilateral means. He also expresses his belief that a mediator cannot end the dispute between the two countries.

Source : National News Bureau, Public Relations Department of Thailand

The real reason behind Hun Sen's belligerence over temple

Asian News Network
Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation (Thailand)
Publication Date: 16-10-2008

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen may have begun beating the war drums too early this week when he issued an ultimatum to Thailand that he would use force to resolve the border dispute at Preah Vihear, but he had reasons for doing so.

In fact, no one believed he would really order his troops to open fire, but an ultimatum like that needs to be thoroughly examined for its hidden meanings.

Some analysts read too much into it when they linked Hun Sen’s move with deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.The machiavellian scenario they suggested was that the Cambodianstrongman wanted to help his associate Thaksin – and Thaksin ’sbrother-in-law, Somchai Wongsawat, the present Thai prime minister – to overcome Thailand’s domestic political difficulties.

The move,they said,was intended to divert attention from domestic political chaos by renewing external problems, and even hostilities,with Cambodia.

But the analytical framework was too complicated and misinterpreted the clear picture of Thai-Cambodian relations.

Moreover, Somchai’s government is too weak to generate external interest in its domestic problems.The present Cabinet would probably be unable to mobilise sufficient resources to wage war against Cambodia, and rather than finding support among Thais, Somchai may easily be accused of dragging the country into war. So the threat could worsen his situation rather than help it.

The rattling of Hun Sen’s saber was not intended to achieve a military goal, but rather was a back-up manoeuvre for diplomatic moves to achieve his development objectives.

The Cambodian government put a lot of effort into the listing ofthe Hindu temple of Preah Vihear as a World Heritage site.

The Khmer sanctuary was expected to welcome a fresh surge of visitors after Unesco accepted it for listing earlier this year. Other World Heritage sites have enjoyed an immediate boost in tourism, but the listing of Preah Vihear has brought Cambodia no more than a bitter row with Thailand,on whose border the revered ruin sits.

The site has been closed since the listing and has not earned Cambodia one single tourist dollar.

In 1962 the International Court of Justice ruled Preah Vihear belonged to Cambodia, but easy access can only be made from Thailand. Phnom Penh needs space to build its own route to the temple, but unfortunately the area it needs is also claimed by Thailand.

Military occupation will not secure the area permanently. Only precise demarcation of the boundary between the two countries can divide the two sides,and that requires advanced technology and negotiations.

The two countries have not sat down for talks about their common border at Preah Vihear for some time, because of internal political difficulties.

For many reasons,Thailand remains unable to activate the Joint Commission on Demarcation of Land Boundaries (JBC).

The present Constitution requires the foreign ministry to obtain a parliamentary mandate before commencing negotiations on boundaries.

The ministry has already submitted the framework of negotiation to the parliament, but parliamentarians have hardly been in the mood to read it.This week ’s session of the House of Representatives was postponed following the recent bloodshed.

The JBC is normally co-chaired by a deputy foreign minister,butforeign minister Sompong Amornwiwat has no deputy. He must assign one of his advisers to the job and told his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong on Monday that he would name a Thai co-chairman within a few weeks.

Hun Sen cannot wait that long, because his government is required to submit an administrative plan for Preah Vihear to the World Heritage Committee by next February.The plan cannot be completed as long as the boundary between Thailand and Cambodia remains a hotly contested issue.

Hun Sen ’s threatening tactics seem to have worked well.

Thailand, although responding with strong words and assurancesof retaliation in the case of attack, urged Phnom Penh to calm down and continue with talks.The Cambodian leader will be happy to see Thailand ’s new eagerness to talk and reactivate the JBC.

Deadly Fighting At Thai-Cambodian Border


(AP) Tensions between Thailand and Cambodia over a border area near a historic temple erupted in a deadly gunbattle, prompting officials on both sides to quickly call for resolving the conflict through talks, not bullets.
Clash Erupts At Historic Temple; Both Sides Call For Diplomacy
CBS NEWS

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, Oct. 16, 2008
Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said military officials from both sides would meet Thursday in Thailand to discuss the previous day's clash, which killed at least two Cambodian soldiers and wounded a total of eight from both sides.

Thailand's Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat pledged to "use peaceful means."

"If there is violence, we have to negotiate," Somchai said.

Wednesday's clash was the first deadly fighting in four months of tensions since Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple was declared a U.N. World Heritage site.

Many Thais feared their country's claim over nearby land would be undermined, and anti-government protesters have pressed their government to take a harder line on the border conflict, seeking to discredit its patriotic credentials. The protesters have sought the ouster of Thailand's ruling party, occupying the grounds of the prime minister's offices for the past two months.

The fighting Wednesday afternoon lasted for about an hour, with each side accusing the other of firing first.

The battle killed at least two Cambodian soldiers and wounded three others, according to Cambodia's Foreign Ministry. Five Thai soldiers were wounded, the Thai army said.

Thailand's Foreign Ministry said Thai soldiers were peacefully patrolling their own territory along the border when Cambodian soldiers shot at them with rocket propelled grenades and submachine guns.

Cambodia's Foreign Ministry accused Thai troops of launching "heavy armed attacks" at three different locations to push back Cambodians from positions inside Cambodian territory.

The fighting was the latest flare-up in a decades-old dispute over a stretch of jungle near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple. The World Court awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, but sovereignty over surrounding land has never been clearly resolved.

Thailand had grudgingly accepted Cambodian sovereignty over the temple with few armed confrontations until this year. But resurgent Thai nationalism sparked by the anti-government protesters put Bangkok authorities under pressure to aggressively pursue the land claims.

Both sides sent hundreds of troops to the area after the UNESCO action, and the dispute also fired a surge of nationalism in Cambodia that helped propel Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to a landslide re-election victory in late July.

Most troops were withdrawn from the area a month later.

But the conflict flared again in recent weeks. A brief gunfight earlier this month wounded one Cambodian and two Thai soldiers. Three days later, two Thai soldiers lost legs when they stepped on land mines in the area.

Charnvit Kasetsiri, a historian who has written extensively on the dispute, said the fight over the temple had long been a proxy for larger conflicts, including World War II and the Cold War, but it had been considered resolved until recently.

"The issue surrounding Preah Vihear temple was over decades ago until it was fanned by nationalist rhetoric for domestic political purposes," he said.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the U.S. would urge both sides to refrain from violence. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also urged restraint and called on the two sides to quickly resolve the dispute.

Thailand's more than 300,000-strong military uses modern American equipment and dwarfs Cambodia's 125,000 less well-equipped troops. Cambodian forces however are well versed in guerrilla warfare after fighting an intense civil war against the communist Khmer Rouge.

Thai, Cambodia armies to meet after border battle

Cambodian soldiers sit in a truck at Sraem village, Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh, October 16, 2008. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

By Chor Sokunthea

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (Reuters) - Thai and Cambodian military commanders prepared for talks across their disputed border on Thursday after the most serious clash in years left two Cambodian soldiers dead and 10 Thais in Cambodian hands.

Despite Wednesday's 40-minute exchange of rocket and gun fire, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said a scheduled meeting to resolve arguments over the jungle frontier would go ahead, suggesting escalation was not inevitable.

"It is a good sign that we can start to solve this conflict," he told reporters in Phnom Penh after an emergency meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen about the fighting near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple.

"We consider this an incident between soldiers and not an invasion by Thailand," Hor Namhong said.

The talks were due to begin at 11 a.m. at a location near the disputed temple, known to Thais as Khao Phra Viharn.

Thai regional army commander Wiboonsak Neeparn told Reuters the meeting would focus on the cause of Wednesday's clash and how to ratchet down tensions on the border, where both sides have rushed reinforcements.

There has been no word on the exchange of 10 Thai prisoners, whose existence Bangkok is officially denying.

Hor Namhong said the group, who were photographed by a Reuters photographer under Cambodian guard, would be properly treated and returned to Thailand if Bangkok requested.

Bangkok has urged its citizens to leave Cambodia, mindful of the 2003 torching of its embassy and Thai businesses in Phnom Penh by a nationalist mob incensed by a row over Angkor Wat, another ancient temple.

"Thai businessmen who have no need to be in Cambodia now, please rush back to Thailand," Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat told reporters, adding that the military had an evacuation plan ready if needed.

In 2003, Thai commandos flew into Phnom Penh airport in the middle of the night to help evacuate 600 Thais during the riots.

Security was beefed up outside the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, with 20 military police armed with assault rifles standing guard.

Both sides accused each other of firing first in the clash, which comes amid huge political instability in Bangkok, with protesters in a long-running street campaign urging the army to launch a coup against the elected government.

"The Thai military are very much under pressure to protect the national sovereignty and territory," Panitan Wattanayagorn, a military analyst at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University said.

(Additional reporting by Nopporn Wong-Anan in Kantaralak)
(Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Valerie Lee)

Thai-Cambodia border gunbattle claims two

Arrested Thai soldiers, wearing black, sit with Cambodian soldiers after the firefight. In addition to the two Cambodian soldiers killed, three were injured, and five Thai soldiers were injured.

Gulf Daily News

PHNOM PENH: Two Cambodian soldiers were killed yesterday in a border gunbattle with Thai troops, increasing the risk that long-standing tensions over territorial claims could escalate into outright war.Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said that two others had been wounded in fighting near an 11th-century temple that lasted less than an hour.
The Cambodian army captured 10 Thai soldiers who would be returned if Bangkok requested, he said.
Thai army said that five of its soldiers were wounded. The fighting stopped and commanders from both sides were trying to negotiate a ceasefire.
"Cambodia is a good neighbour. We will use peaceful means. If there is violence, we have to negotiate," Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat said.
The Thai army also stated its desire to end the dispute peacefully.
Both sides said that the other fired first. It was not immediately clear how many troops were engaged in the shooting
The clash came a day after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen issued an ultimatum to Thailand to pull back its soldiers from the disputed territory near the Preah Vihear temple.
The fighting was the latest in the decades-long dispute over a stretch of jungle near the temple. The World Court awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, but sovereignty over some surrounding land has never been resolved.
Tensions flared on July 15 after Unesco approved Cambodia's bid to have the temple named a World Heritage Site, leading some in Thailand to fear that its claims over the nearby land would be undermined.
Cambodia deployed more than 800 troops to the border after the Unesco decision, and Thailand sent 400. Both sides pulled back most of troops in August.

Thailand, Cambodia To Hold Talks To Resolve Border Dispute

(RTTNews) - Generals from Thailand and Cambodia are scheduled to meet on Thursday to try and resolve the ongoing dispute over a border temple, said officials on Wednesday.

The move comes after two Cambodian soldiers were killed and several soldiers from both sides injured after clashes broke out between the two forces on Wednesday.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong described the recent clashes between the soldiers of the two countries as "an incident between soldiers and not an invasion by Thailand," and said that Thursday's meeting between the generals of both sides was a good positive sign.

Also on Wednesday, Cambodian Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat said the fighting between the soldiers on both sides was "small scale" and pledged his commitment in resolving the issue through peaceful means.

"Cambodia is a good neighbor. We will use peaceful means. If there is violence, we have to negotiate," he said Wednesday.

The long-standing dispute over the border temple began after International Court awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, and escalated after Unesco listed it as a World Heritage Site recently.

The current standoff began after Cambodian police arrested three Thai protesters in July for attempting to reach the temple without proper immigration papers.

Thai troops then massed near the border to rescue the arrested protesters, prompting a Cambodian troop built up along the disputed border area.

Currently, about two hundred Thai soldiers and 380 Cambodian soldiers are believed to be stationed near the site of the disputed Preah Vihear Temple site.

by RTT Staff Writer

Thailand & Cambodia - Two Buddhist Nations Battle

Scoop New Zealand
Thailand and Cambodia, Two Buddhist Nations, Battle on Their Border

by Richard S. Ehrlich

BANGKOK, Thailand -- The latest gunfire and two deaths along the disputed Thai-Cambodian border on Wednesday (October 15) threaten to escalate into open warfare between these two Buddhist countries, pitting Bangkok's U.S.-trained military against some of the late Pol Pot's former Khmer Rouge forces.

Thailand is a non-NATO military ally of America, and is bigger, wealthier, and better armed than Cambodia.

But Cambodian soldiers are perceived as tougher jungle fighters after decades of guerrilla war amid that country's horrific "killing fields".

In fresh skirmishes, at least two Cambodian soldiers died, and two were injured, during a gun fight on Wednesday (October 15) near the 11th century stone ruins of Preah Vihear temple, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters.

Cambodian officials also claimed they captured several Thai soldiers.

Five Thai soldiers were injured in battle, Thai army spokesman Sansern Kaewkumnerd said.
Assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades were used during the 40-minute clash, though both sides denied firing the first shot.

Unfortunately for Thailand, its Army Commander-in-Chief, Gen. Anupong Paochinda, is embroiled in Bangkok's crippling domestic politics, despite his repeated denials that he is plotting a coup.

Anti-government protestors in Bangkok have pointed to the border dispute to condemn Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat for not protecting Thai territory, and expressed hopes for an army coup.

Preah Vihear's ruins received World Heritage Site status earlier this year by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The award immediately sparked outrage in Thailand, fueling distrust between the two countries.
"UNESCO acted as if its World Heritage status was some God-given right, and ignored the fact that a strongman [Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen] in Phnom Penh was exploiting it for political gain," the English-language Nation newspaper said in a Wednesday (October 15) editorial.

Bangkok was not happy with a 1962 World Court judgment which ruled Cambodia owns the Preah Vihear ruins, about 100 miles northeast of Cambodia's fabled Angkor Wat temple complex, near Siem Reap.

Preah Vihear offers majestic stone architecture, ravaged by time and neglect, sprawling across a flat outcropping of land jutting above Cambodia.

Thanks to border maps written by French colonialists when Paris ruled Indochina, the temple appears to hover over northern Cambodia on a mountaintop ledge.

It can be easily approached across relatively flat land from the Thai side, but Cambodians must climb a steep cliff to reach the temple.

Thais insist the flat outcropping is an obvious extension of northeast Thailand, though historians say the temple was built by Cambodia's Khmer rulers.

While the ruins may be Cambodian, Thailand claims 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of jungle alongside the temple were never clearly demarcated.

Bangkok and Phnom Penh have traditionally been uneasy neighbors, though Thai businesses have expanded in Cambodia during recent years.

During the 1970s, Thailand allowed the U.S. military to use Thai territory as a base to attack Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

As part of America's failed Vietnam War, the U.S. lost its fight against Cambodia's Khmer Rouge communist guerrillas in 1975.

Cambodia's recently re-elected Prime Minister Hun Sen was a mid- level Khmer Rouge commander during the guerrilla war against the U.S.

Hun Sen defected from Pol Pot in 1977, mid-way through Pol Pot's infamous 1975-79 "killing fields" reign, which left more than one million Cambodians dead from starvation, disease, slavery, torture and other abuses.

After helping to defeat Pol Pot, Hun Sen incorporated many former Khmer Rouge guerrillas into Cambodia's army.

The Preah Vihear area is "a life-and-death battle zone," Hun Sen told an economic forum in Phnom Penh on Tuesday (October 14) while hoping for millions of dollars in loans from China.

"The problem is not about withdrawing or not withdrawing -- it's our territory. How can they tell us that it is their territory?" Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornwiwat told reporters on Tuesday (October 14) after an unsuccessful meeting with his Cambodian counterpart.

"What can we do? We are in our own homeland, and they want us to evict us from our own home," Sompong said.

"If Cambodia does resort to the use of force in accordance with its so-called ultimatum, Thailand will have to exercise its right of self-defense as provided for under the Charter of the United Nations, in order to protect our de-mining personnel and Thailand's sovereignty and territorial integrity," the Thai Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday (October 14).

"Thailand has always called for, and remains committed to, resolving its boundary issues with Cambodia peacefully," the Foreign Ministry said.

Hidden land mines exploded near Preah Vihear temple on Oct. 3, causing two Thai soldiers to lose legs, and gunfights during the past several weeks injured troops on both sides.

Cambodia and Thailand and Those 4.6 Kilometres

Global Comment
October 15, 2008

Two soldiers are dead and six are injured for 4.6 square kilometres of land. Whose land? Well that is the question. Thailand claims it. Cambodia claims it. Neither side is happy with the other’s claim.

Historically, both have owned it. Naturally both claim ownership today. It has been a point of contention for quite a few decades. With the Khmer Rouge and the resultant landmines, the whole area was inaccessible until the early 90s so the argument was moot.

On Monday, Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen, ordered the Thais to withdraw or risk a bloodbath. The Thais refused to withdraw. Then the shooting began. Rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns were fired. Two soldiers were killed.

Nobody is sure who fired first. Both sides claimed that it was the other. Thai Foreign Minister, Sompong Amornvivat, has urged Thai nationals to leave Cambodia, no doubt remembering the violence of the anti-Thai riots in 2003.

In fact, the current fighting might easily have been avoided but with civil unrest in Thailand and the recent election in Cambodia, the dispute has taken on a life of its own.

A bit of history:

In 1962, the International Court of Justice awarded the 9th century Hindu temple of Preah Vihear to Cambodia. The ICJ did not rule on the 4.6 square kilometres of land surrounding the temple. It is claimed by Thailand.

The ownership became an issue again in July 2008 when UNESCO designated Preah Vihear as a World Heritage site in Cambodia. Thailand took issue with this decision. An outsider might well be curious as to why the decision of an international cultural organisation has had such serious consequences, and certainly without in other political circumstances, a minor protest might have been lodged.

As luck would have it, the dispute arose in the run up to the general election, which fanned the ultra-nationalist factions in Cambodia. The Prime Minister, Hun Sen likes to be known as the strong man of Asia.

Indeed even expats lower their voices when they refer to him while out for a drink. His power is absolute. His word is law. He has been in power since the Vietnamese threw out the Khmer Rouge. He was a Khmer Rouge soldier but that is not mentioned nowadays.

Nobody really had any doubts but that Cambodia’s ruling party, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), would win. The usual ‘rice for votes’, intimidation, fear and ghost voters made any outcome but a victory impossible. The PM even stated that there would be civil war if he were not re-elected. Nothing like a little intimidation to encourage people to vote the ‘right’ way.

The Thai-Cambodian Preah Vihear dispute was a boon because it allowed Hun Sen to bellow anti-Thai rhetoric and pander to the nationalist factions. Not to be outdone, Thai nationalists went on hunger strike.

Cambodians don’t like the Thais anyway (or the Vietnamese for that matter). It is a centuries long hatred that bubbles under the surface. One of the major cities is even named ‘Thailand Defeated’. You may know it as Siem Reap, the home of Angkor Wat. Cambodians are very sensitive regarding the size of their territory. In regard to the history of the great Khmer Empire, Reuters reminds us that:

“Drummed into every school-child’s head, its area - 181,035 sq km - is as etched into the collective memory as deep as “9-11″ in the United States.”

In fact, commenters on Khmer blogs praised the Thai hunger strikers and urged them to continue. They stated, anonymously of course, that they would like to see the Thais dead.

It is serious business. Cambodian troops have been staring at Thai troops since July and both sides are trigger-happy. The situation on the ground has waxed and waned with the deployment of more and less troops over the past few months.

Cambodians called for a boycott of Thai goods, which had commercial impact. The baiting and posturing has been going on since.

On Monday, The Nation reported that

“Cambodian PM Hun Sen wasted no time in making his point. An ultimatum was issued even before Sompong [Thai Minister for Foreign Affairs] touched down on Thai soil: Hun Sen gave Thailand until midday yesterday to withdraw troops from areas of overlapping territorial claim or he would use military force to resolve the matter.”

As you can see, Hun Sen is not famous for his diplomatic skills.

Thai soldiers received orders to retaliate immediately if fired upon. Fighter planes were put on standby. No doubt this sabre-rattling contributed to Wednesday’s shootings.

The situation stands thus: Thailand is reinforcing its defences with additional troops are artillery.

Cambodian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hor Namhong, said ten Thai soldiers had surrendered.
Both sides are aggrieved but neither wants bear responsibility for war.