Saturday, 4 April 2009

Troops on alert after Cambodia-Thai border clash

File photo shows Cambodian soldiers walking at the Preah Vihear temple. Troops were on alert at the disputed Cambodian-Thai border Saturday, after heavy gunbattles left at least two soldiers dead a day earlier, Cambodian officials said.Photo:Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP

Sat Apr 4

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (AFP) - Troops on both sides of the Cambodian-Thai border were on alert Saturday after gunbattles near a disputed temple left at least two soldiers dead, a Cambodian official said.

The mood was tense after Friday's firefight, which was the biggest flare-up for months in a bitter feud over territory near the ancient temple.

"The situation at the border is quiet now and back to normal," a Cambodian commander named Yem Pem said, adding that troops were on "24-hour alert."

Soldiers exchanged rocket, machinegun and mortar fire Friday, damaging the staircase of the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, following a brief skirmish earlier in the day, officials said.

Cambodia's foreign ministry said a local government office was damaged, and hundreds of Cambodians, who lost their homes and local market in the fighting, were evacuated to a school 20 kilometres (12 miles) away.

"We were so frightened because the situation was so tense," said Chum Vanna, 27, who was evacuated with her husband and children.

"I'm very angry with the Thai soldiers. All of my belongings were completely burned. We came here with just a few clothes," she added.

The area saw several clashes last year after Cambodia successfully applied for United Nations world heritage status for the temple ruins in July.

Four soldiers were killed in a firefight in October.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen sought to downplay the latest incident during a Saturday speech to handicapped veterans and villagers in the southern province of Kampot.

"It is normal that every side has the right to self-defence. If they come, it happens. And as we enter their territory they also have the right to fire at us," Hun Sen told the crowd.

"But we consider this (clash) an incident. I don't call it a war... We are very sorry. We don't want Cambodian or Thai soldiers to die," he added.

One Thai soldier was killed at the site of the clash on Friday and another died in hospital later, while 10 others were injured, said the Thai military. Cambodian officials reported no casualties.

A Thai military official said nine soldiers were still being treated in two hospitals in the northeastern Thai city of Ubon Ratchathani, with two of them in critical condition.

Thai Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwon would visit the injured later Saturday, she added.

The clashes came three days after Hun Sen warned Thailand not to allow its troops to cross into disputed land. Bangkok denies claims that 100 went over the frontier a week ago.

Cambodia and Thailand have been at loggerheads over the site of decades but tensions spilled over into violence last July when the temple was granted UN heritage status.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that the ruins belonged to Cambodia, but the most accessible entrance is in Thailand, and some of the disputed land is yet to be demarcated.

Talks between Cambodia and Thailand have failed to resolve the dispute and further discussions are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday in Phnom Penh.

Hun Sen and Thai counterpart Abhisit Vejjajiva are due to join a summit of Association of Southeast Asian Nations and key regional partners in Thailand from Friday.

Cambodian foreign ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said the clashes would not affect talks and that plans remained the same, including for the summit.

Singapore, meanwhile, urged both sides to "exercise utmost restraint in the broader interests of the region."

Cambodia PM says Thai border conflict "not a war"

Thai soldiers walk along a road in the disputed border area with Cambodia of Preah Vihear temple, in Si Sa Ket province April 3, 2009. One Thai soldier was killed and seven others wounded on Friday in fighting with Cambodian troops near the disputed Hindu temple on their border, a Thai general said.
REUTERS/Stringer


Sat Apr 4, 2009

By Ek Madra

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Saturday a border clash with Thailand around a 900-year-old Hindu temple would not escalate into a more serious conflict.

"I regard the fighting yesterday as an incident, not a war," Hun Sen said a day after Thai and Cambodian troops exchanged rifle and rocket fire near the Preah Vihear temple that has been a source of tension for decades.

Cambodia suffered no casualties, while Thai authorities said two of their soldiers were killed and nine wounded in the worst fighting since a military stand-off near the temple last year.

"I don't want to see these incidents repeated or fighting expand to other areas," Hun Sen told a group of disabled soldiers during a visit to the coastal province of Kampot. Both sides accused each other of firing first in two separate clashes on Friday, which Thailand called a "misunderstanding."

Preah Vihear, or Khao Phra Viharn as it is known in Thailand, sits on an escarpment that forms the natural border between the two countries and has been a source of tension for generations.

The International Court of Justice awarded it to Cambodia in 1962, but the ruling did not determine the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the ruins, leaving considerable scope for disagreement.

A joint border committee set up to demarcate the jungle-clad border area after last year's clashes, which killed one Thai and three Cambodian soldiers, will meet again on Sunday for three days of talks.

Both sides have talked about developing the site into a tourist destination. The site is some 600 km (370 miles) east of Bangkok and only a decade ago was controlled by remnants of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge guerrilla army.

(Additional reporting by Vithoon Amorn in Bangkok)

(Writing by Darren Schuettler; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

Four Dead In Fresh South Thailand Clashes - Police

NARATHIWAT (AFP)--Thai security officials shot dead two suspected separatist militants during a gunfight Saturday in the restive southern border area, police said.

They said about 100 soldiers and police had surrounded a house in Narathiwat, one of three Muslim-majority provinces wracked by five years of unrest, after a tip-off that militants were inside.

After a 15-minute exchange of fire between authorities and seven militants, police arrested one and said two others had been killed, adding that four gunmen had fled. One policeman was also wounded, they said.

The incident followed the deaths of two other men overnight in nearby Pattani province, police said.

A 60-year-old Buddhist man and his 18-year-old nephew were killed in front of their home in a drive-by shooting, they said.

More than 3,600 people have been killed and thousands more injured in five years of separatist violence in Thailand's Muslim-majority provinces near the Malaysian border.

Buddhist-majority Thailand annexed the ethnic Malay area in 1902, sparking decades of tension.

Shots fired on Thai-Cambodia border

The disputed border area has been at the centre of an armed stand-off since last year [AFP]

Preah Vihear temple
The 11th-century temple was built in the reign of King Suryvarman I, during the 600-year Khmer empire.Built to honour the Hindu god Shiva, the temple has withstood decades of war.In 1998, hundreds of Khmer Rouge guerrillas made their final surrender at the temple.Unesco deemed the temple a World Heritage site for its location, rare architecture, religious function and carved stone ornaments.

"There is also a lot of very unhelpful political wrangling at the top levels"
Laura Kyle, Al Jazeera


Al Jazeera

At least two Thai soldiers have been killed and up to 10 others wounded in a clash between Thai and Cambodian troops on a disputed stretch of the shared border.

Both sides accused each other of firing the first shots in two separate clashes on Friday, the latest in a long-running feud over a 900-year-old Hindu ruin.

Soldiers traded rocket, machine gun and mortar fire near Preah Vihear, an 11th-century Khmer temple on the frontier, officials said.

Thailand's military said two of its soldiers were killed, but Khieu Kanharith, a Cambodian government spokesman, said four Thai soldiers were killed and 10 captured during the clashes.

"We are fighting with each other, it is serious gunfire," Kanharith said.

Thailand's Foreign Ministry denied that any Thais had been seized.

The latest fighting comes a day after a Thai soldier lost a leg when he stepped on a landmine in an area claimed by Thailand.

A Thai patrol visited the blast site on Friday morning and encountered 20 Cambodian soldiers.

"After talks between the two sides failed, the Cambodian side started to walk away and turned back to open fire at Thai troops with rifles and RPG rockets, forcing the Thai side to fire back in self-defence," the Thai foreign ministry said in a statement.

'Misunderstanding'

There were reports of more fighting in the afternoon, hours after Thai and Cambodian commanders met for talks on the border.

The latest gunfight happened after a Thai general described the first incident as a "misunderstanding".

Cambodian officials said Friday's first shootout began after Thai troops crossed into Cambodian territory.

The landmine incident a day earlier had already put Cambodian troops on "high alert" said Thai officials.

Earlier this week Hun Sen, the Cambodian prime minister, had warned Thailand that it would face fighting if its troops crossed their disputed frontier.

But Thailand denies claims that about 100 of its troops had crossed over the frontier.

Hun Sen and Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Thai prime minister, are scheduled to attend a summit between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and key regional partners in the Thai resort of Pattaya next week.

The conflict focuses on an area of land of just over five square kilometres surrounding the temple.

'Political wrangling'

Ownership of the property itself was awarded to Cambodia by an international court in 1962, but ownership of the surrounding land has remained in dispute.

The recent listing of the temple as a UN World Heritage site has revived nationalist tensions in Thailand and Cambodia.

The same area was the scene of several clashes last year, with four soldiers killed in October.

Al Jazeera's Laura Kyle reporting from Phnom Penh said: "Violence peaked last year when the temple became a world heritage site ... there are negotiations taking place to try and diffuse the situation and bring the fighting to a halt.

"But there is also a lot of very unhelpful political wrangling at the top levels," she said.

Cambodia, Thai border clash leaves soldiers dead

Thai soldiers stand guard near the border with Cambodia. Thai and Cambodian troops fought heavy gun-battles on their disputed border, leaving at least two soldiers dead in the biggest flare-up for months in a bitter feud over an ancient temple.(AFP/AFP)

Thai soldiers stand guard in the disputed border area with Cambodia of Preah Vihear temple, in Si Sa Ket province April 3, 2009. One Thai soldier was killed and seven others wounded on Friday in fighting with Cambodian troops near the disputed Hindu temple on their border, a Thai general said. REUTERS/Stringer (THAILAND CONFLICT POLITICS MILITARY) THAILAND OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN THAILAND

Thai soldiers walk along a road in the disputed border area with Cambodia of Preah Vihear temple, in Si Sa Ket province April 3, 2009. One Thai soldier was killed and seven others wounded on Friday in fighting with Cambodian troops near the disputed Hindu temple on their border, a Thai general said. REUTERS/Stringer (THAILAND POLITICS MILITARY CONFLICT) THAILAND OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN THAILAND

Cambodian soldiers stand guard near the Preah Vihear temple near the border with Thailand in October 2008. Cambodian and Thai troops fought heavy gunbattles along their disputed border, leaving three soldiers dead in a major flare-up of a long-running feud over an ancient temple.(AFP/File/Tang Chhin Sothy)

A Cambodian soldier sits at Phnom Trop near Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple in a world heritage site at the Cambodian-Thai border, about 245 kilometers (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov. 11, 2008. Cambodian troops said Friday a brief gunfight broke out with Thai soldiers at their tense border near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, the site of increasingly regular conflicts between the neighbors.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodia refugees are seen in Sra Em village after leaving Preah Vihear temple

Cambodia refugees are seen in Sra Em village after leaving Preah Vihear temple, where Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged rifle and rocket fire, in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh April 3, 2009. Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged rocket and rifle fire on a disputed stretch of their border on Friday, killing two Thais in the latest flare-up of an ancient feud over the 900-year-old Hindu temple.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA POLITICS CONFLICT)

Cambodia refugees walk in Sra Em village after leaving Preah Vihear temple, where Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged rifle and rocket fire, in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh April 3, 2009. Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged rocket and rifle fire on a disputed stretch of their border on Friday, killing two Thais in the latest flare-up of an ancient feud over the 900-year-old Hindu temple.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA POLITICS CONFLICT)

Cambodia refugees are seen in a truck at Sra Em village after leaving Preah Vihear temple, where Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged rifle and rocket fire, in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh April 3, 2009. Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged rocket and rifle fire on a disputed stretch of their border on Friday, killing two Thais in the latest flare-up of an ancient feud over the 900-year-old Hindu temple.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA POLITICS CONFLICT)

Cambodia refugees walk after getting out from a truck at Sra Em village after leaving Preah Vihear temple where Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged rifle and rocket fire in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh April 3, 2009. Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged rocket and rifle fire on a disputed stretch of their border on Friday, killing two Thais in the latest flare-up of an ancient feud over the 900-year-old Hindu temple.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea ( CAMBODIA POLITICS CONFLICT)

Cambodia refugees get out from a truck at Sra Em village after leaving Preah Vihear temple where Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged rifle and rocket fire near an ancient Hindu temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh April 3, 2009. Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged rocket and rifle fire on a disputed stretch of their border on Friday, killing two Thais in the latest flare-up of an ancient feud over the 900-year-old Hindu temple. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA POLITICS CONFLICT IMAGE OF THE DAY TOP PICTURE)

4 Thai soldiers killed along border with Cambodia

Monks rest at Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple near the border with Thailand, 245 kilometres north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (Heng Sinith/Associated Press)
CBC News

Friday, April 3, 2009

long-standing land dispute between Cambodia and Thailand over an 11th-century temple turned deadly Friday with reports of fighting that killed four Thai soldiers.

Thai and Cambodian soldiers fired at each other with machine-guns and rocket launchers near the Preah Vihear temple, a Cambodian government spokesman said.

The official said 10 Thai soldiers were detained.

The Thai army could not be reached to confirm fatalities on its side.

The fighting is the latest flare-up near the temple, which is on the Cambodian side of an ill-defined border.

In 1962, the International Court of Justice awarded the hilltop temple to Cambodia, but the ruling did not determine ownership of a 4.6-square-kilometre area around it.

Teen accused of duct-taping ex-girlfriend faces three felonies in Floyd County

Neighbors called ‘heroes’ for stepping in to stop crime

New Albany Tribune

By MATT THACKER
Matt.Thacker@newsandtribune.com

The Cambodian teenager accused of bounding his ex-girlfriend with duct tape and stealing gifts he admitted buying her has been charged with three felonies in Floyd County Superior Court No. 3.

Theara Meng, 18, has been charged with class A felony burglary resulting in bodily injury, class C felony criminal confinement and class D felony theft.

The Floyd County Sheriff’s Department alleges that Meng entered an apartment at Charlestown Crossing wearing a mask of Sean Connery as “James Bond.” Police say Meng tied the 16-year-old ex-girlfriend’s hands and mouth with duct tape and stole gifts he gave her when they were dating.

Police were able to capture Meng shortly after the incident occurred Monday night, due in large part to help from the victim’s neighbors, they say.

Lt. Russ Wyatt of the sheriff’s department said the neighbors were “incredible” in providing police with information, and said he did not know if they would have caught Meng without their help.

Greg Brodfehrer, the brother of one of those neighbors, is calling his brother and other neighbors heroes for stopping to help when they were walking down the street and heard the girl struggling.

Brodfehrer said his brother and a neighbor banged on the door until Meng walked out. He said the neighbor used his car to try to block a vehicle from leaving the apartment complex. Police arrived shortly and arrested the suspect.

“I am so proud of him for stepping in the way he did to help out a total stranger,” Brodfehrer said of his brother.

He said he did not want their names published because of concern for their safety.

The suspect — whose name originally appeared in court documents as Meng Theara — faces up to 61 years in prison if convicted of all charges.

He is being held in the Floyd County Jail on a $200,000 bond. A jury trial was set for June 8. His attorney, Gordon Ingle, was not immediately available for comment.

Preah Khan in Angkor, Cambodia

D.B. Kim

Interior Design
April 3, 2009

“The space of the living world is filled with our activities. The space in a photograph is free of the multitude of phenomena.” –Richard Pare
Entering the site of Preah Khan in Angkor, Cambodia is like the experience of entering an abandoned treasure site, akin to what one might have seen in a Hollywood adventure movie. I am not sure if anything like this exists anywhere else in the world.


The temple site was built in the 12th century for King Jayavarman VII. The planning is based on Buddhist rectangular shapes and houses rich carvings and architecture similar to other temples in Angkor. Preah Khan is famous for its invasions of life, or collisions between nature and architecture. As I hope you will observe from the following images, these beautiful “damages” are quite spectacular. Although one might consider the results to be weathered and aged, I would interpret it as stunning—a rare treat for an ancient architectural site.

The forceful willfulness of nature is so amazing that even a sacred temple cannot stop its growth and willingness. What I loved most is the balance between nature and the architecture components: yin and yang. Some of the compositions seem so stunningly calculated that I became curious about the future of their relationship, considering the existing trees and what is left of the architectural site.

The venerability of both nature and the temple architecture showcases beautifully at Preah Khan, and suggests many questions to the visitors. For me, I ask, “How long will this exact moment last?” It also became clear to me that we evolve every moment, as does our architecture within the nature and time in which we live.
Thai soldiers stand guard Friday in a disputed border area near the Preah Vihear temple. The clashes between Cambodian troops and Thai soldiers come days before a meeting on the border dispute.
Reuters


At least three soldiers were killed during gunfights near a 900-year-old temple, whose ownership has been contested by both sides.

Christian Science Monitor

By Arthur Bright
from the April 3, 2009 edition

• A daily summary of global reports on security issues.

At least three people were killed in a firefight between Cambodian and Thai troops Friday in the latest of a recent series of clashes along the disputed Thai-Cambodian border. The skirmish comes days before the two sides were set to discuss the issue at a regional summit.

Agence France-Presse reports that two Cambodian soldiers and one Thai soldier died during a number of skirmishes Friday.

"We are fighting with each other, it is serious gunfire. Two of our soldiers have been killed," Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said. "The gunfire is continuing in at least two areas," he added....

Cambodian and Thai authorities confirmed heavy gunfire had broken out at 2:00 pm (0700 GMT) in a number of spots near the border, which has never been fully demarcated due to landmines left after decades of war in Cambodia.

"We have occupied many areas now. The gunfire ended after about 35 minutes of fighting. We have won the fight now," Cambodian commander Bun Thean told AFP.

Bloomberg reports that the fighting has now stopped and that the two sides are discussing the situation, according to Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat.

"The army chiefs are now talking," Tharit said. "We asked for a ceasefire and do not want to use force."

Cambodian and Thai troops engaged in "large-scale fighting" today, Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan said by phone. Two Thai soldiers were killed and six wounded, he said. Tharit denied the claim and said Thailand had suffered no deaths or injuries.

The battles took place around the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple, the ownership of which has been contested by Thailand and Cambodia. Although the International Court of Justice at the Hague ruled in 1962 that the temple was within Cambodia's territory, the court did not address the ownership of the surrounding land, which both nations have claimed. As a result, the temple has remained a flashpoint. In July 2008, both countries engaged in a troop buildup and saber-rattling over the temple, after UNESCO designated it as a World Heritage Site for Cambodia, The Christian Science Monitor reported. Several soldiers were killed in a subsequent skirmish near Preah Vihear in October.

Friday's gun battles come a day after a Thai soldier lost a leg to a land mine in a forest near Preah Vihear, reports The Phnom Penh Post. The Post writes that the soldier had been on patrol when he stepped on the mine, which had probably been placed there years before, according to a Cambodian military official.

Yim Phim, commander of Brigade 8, said the Cambodian troops "don't dare walk" in the area where the Thai soldier was wounded.

"Mines were laid there during the fighting in the 1980s and 1990s," he said, referring to clashes between government troops and resistance fighters.

Bloomberg notes, however, that Mr. Charungvat said that Thai officers believe that the mine had recently been planted.

The BBC reports that Friday's battles seem to have been sparked during a subsequent visit by a Thai patrol to the site where the Thai soldier was injured Thursday.

"After talks between the two sides failed, the Cambodian side started to walk away and turned back to open fire at Thai troops with rifles and RPG rockets, forcing the Thai side to fire back in self-defence," said a statement from Thailand's foreign ministry.

"It was an accident, a misunderstanding among officials on the ground, which is common when you are closely positioned," said Thai Defense Minister Pravit Wongsuwan.

However, the Cambodian foreign ministry called it an "intended aggressive invasion by the Thai military", and said a letter of protest would be sent to Thailand.

The Associated Press reports that a Cambodian soldier said they opened fire only after some 60 Thai soldiers entered Cambodian territory, sparking a gun battle that lasted about 10 minutes. The AP adds that neither side reported any casualties in the first round of fighting.

The BBC notes that the battles come just days before representatives from Thailand and Cambodia were scheduled to discuss the issue peacefully. The Cambodia-Thailand Joint Border Committee was set to begin three days of talks on Sunday, in the Cambodian town of Siem Reap. Bloomberg adds that leaders of the two countries are scheduled to meet during an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit next week, and that Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is due to visit Cambodia later in April.

Soldiers die as Thai, Cambodian troops trade fire

A Cambodian soldier walks past Preah Vihear temple in the Cambodian province of Preah Vihear.

BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) -- Thai and Cambodian troops exchanged fire early Friday killing at least four soldiers near a disputed border temple that was the site of clashes last year, a Thai military official said.

A group of about 20 Cambodian soldiers "intruded" into Thai territory and opened fire after they were warned to leave by Thai soldiers, said Thai army spokesman Col. Sansern Kaewkunerd. Both sides exchanged gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades in a firefight that lasted about five minutes with no casualties

But in a second round of fighting two Thai soldiers died and 10 others were injured, said Thai army Lt. Col. Vichit Mugkarun.

Two Cambodian soldiers and nine others were injured in the battle, the official said

Cambodian officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

The fighting took place about 2 miles (3 km) from the 11th century Preah Vihear temple.

For months last year, the two countries saber-rattled over the ancient temple. The nations differ on whether some territory around the temple forms part of Thailand or Cambodia.

Both countries posted troops in the area after the United Nations in July approved Cambodia's application to have the temple listed as a World Heritage Site -- a place the United Nations says has outstanding universal value.

The temple sits atop a cliff on Cambodian soil, but has its most accessible entrance on the Thai side.

The International Court of Justice awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962. Thailand claims, however, that the 1.8 square mile (4.6 sq. km) area around it was never fully demarcated.

Thailand says the dispute arose from the fact that the Cambodian government used a map drawn during the French occupation of Cambodia -- a map that places the temple and surrounding area in Cambodian territory.

The United Nations' decision re-ignited tensions, with some in Thailand fearing it will make it difficult for their country to lay claim to disputed land around the temple.

Last year's flare-up began July 15, when Cambodian guards briefly detained three Thais who crossed into the area. Once they were let go, the three refused to leave the territory.

Cambodia claimed Thailand sent troops to retrieve the trio and gradually built up their numbers. Thailand denied that, saying its troops are deployed in Thai territory.

Thai, Cambodian troops clash near border

Reuters
Cambodian troops patrolling the disputed 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province last year


TV New Zealand
Source: Reuters

Thai and Cambodian soldiers have exchanged rocket and small arms fire on a disputed stretch of their border, the latest flare-up in a long-running feud over a 900-year-old Hindu temple.

Both sides accused each other of firing first in a clash lasting nearly an hour at Eagle Field, near the Preah Vihear temple, which was at the centre of a military stand-off between the Southeast Asian neighbours last year.

There were no reports of wounded or dead. Thai and Cambodian military commanders on the border agreed to meet at midday to avoid further violence.

General Srey Doek, Cambodia's commander at the temple, said a Thai patrol crossed into Cambodian territory and opened fire on his men.

"The Thais fired rockets and rifles at us, and we responded in the same way," he told Reuters. Both sides agreed a ceasefire after their border commanders spoke by radio.

In Bangkok, Thai officials denied their troops had trod on Cambodian soil and accused the other side of shooting first.

"This was just a misunderstanding," Thai army chief Anupong Paochinda said.

Preah Vihear, or Khao Phra Viharn as it is known in Thailand, sits on an escarpment that forms the natural border between the two countries and has been a source of tension for generations.

The International Court of Justice awarded it to Cambodia in 1962, but the ruling did not determine the ownership of 4.6 sq km of scrub next to the ruins, leaving considerable scope for disagreement.

The latest fighting erupted a day after a Thai soldier was badly wounded when he stepped on a landmine near the temple, where both sides have stationed troops since the armed clashes last year.

Tensions

Tensions rose last month when 100 Thai troops crossed into a disputed area near the temple and were stopped by Cambodian soldiers, but no fighting occurred.

The border had been quiet for months while the Southeast Asian neighbours sought to jointly demarcate the jungle-clad area where one Thai and three Cambodian soldiers died in last October's exchange of rifle and rocket fire.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge commander, warned this week that his soldiers would fight if Thai troops crossed the disputed border again.

The site is 600 km east of Bangkok and only a decade ago was controlled by remnants of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge guerrilla army.

Few foreign visitors go there, although both countries have said they would like to develop the area as a tourist destination.

The Cambodia-Thailand Joint Border Committee will meet again on Sunday for three days of talks in the Cambodian resort town of Siem Reap to try and find a solution to the row.

Thailand, Cambodia in deadly border clashes

Cambodian soldiers stand guard near the Preah Vihear temple near the border with Thailand in October 2008. Thai and Cambodian troops fought heavy gun-battles on their disputed border, leaving at least two soldiers dead in the biggest flare-up for months in a bitter feud over an ancient temple.(AFP/File/Tang Chhin Sothy)

by Suy Se – Fri Apr 3, 2009

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – Thai and Cambodian troops fought heavy gun-battles on their disputed border Friday, leaving at least two soldiers dead in the biggest flare-up for months in a bitter feud over an ancient temple.

Soldiers exchanged rocket, machine-gun and mortar fire near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple on the frontier, following a brief skirmish earlier in the day, officials from both sides said.

The area was the scene of several clashes last year after Cambodia successfully applied for United Nations world heritage status for the ruins in July, with four soldiers killed in a battle there in October.

One Thai soldier died at the site of the clash on Friday and another passed away in hospital later, while 10 others were injured, regional Thai military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Wichit Makarun said.

Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith initially announced that two soldiers from his country were killed, but later retracted the statement, saying it was an unofficial figure but without providing further details.

"We are fighting with each other, it is serious gunfire," Khieu Kanharith said, adding that the fighting happened in at least two separate areas near the temple.

Military commanders later held talks to ease tensions near the clifftop temple, ownership of which was awarded to Cambodia in 1962 by the International Court of Justice, although the land around the ruins remains disputed.

But a war of words continued between the two sides after the clash, coming just one week before the prime ministers of the neighbouring countries are due to meet at a key regional summit in Thailand.

"This is an intended aggressive invasion by the Thai military," said Cambodian foreign ministry spokesman Koy Kuong. "The foreign ministry will... write a protest letter about the invasion by Thailand."

Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva said he was ready to call his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen about the matter but defended Bangkok's right to "preserve our sovereignty."

"It was likely caused by a misunderstanding or accident," Abhisit said on his return from the G20 summit in London.

The first clash erupted on Friday morning after Cambodian soldiers went to inspect an area where a Thai soldier lost a leg in a landmine blast a day earlier. Both sides blamed each other but said there were no casualties.

Heavy gunfire then broke out at 2:00 pm (0700 GMT) in a number of spots near the border, which has never been fully demarcated due to landmines left after decades of war in Cambodia.

Several officials said the fighting lasted between half and hour and an hour.

A Cambodian soldier posted at the border, Yeim Kheang, told AFP by telephone that a Cambodian market at the gateway to the temple had been badly burned.

"We used heavy weapons including rockets, machine-guns and mortars. In general, we used every weapon given to us. Many Thai soldiers ran away, leaving their weapons behind during the fight," Yeim Kheang said.

The clashes came three days after Hun Sen warned Thailand that it would face fighting if its troops crossed their disputed frontier. Thailand denies claims that about 100 of its troops went over the frontier a week ago.

Tensions first flared along the border in July last year over the granting of UN heritage to the temple on the border, although the countries have been at loggerheads over the site for decades.

Subsequent talks between Cambodia and Thailand have not resolved the dispute and Thailand's foreign minister was forced to apologise Thursday, after being accused by Hun Sen of calling him a gangster.

Further talks are due on Monday and Tuesday in Phnom Penh.

Hun Sen and Abhisit are also scheduled to take part in a summit between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and key regional partners in the Thai resort of Pattaya, starting on April 10.

Cambodia cosmetic surgery booms amid dubious quality

Staff of Samangkar Luxe Salon treat client's acne at the clinic in Phnom Penh on March 9, 2009. Despite the global economic downturn, health experts say the business of cosmetic surgery in Cambodia has doubled, or even tripled in recent years.(AFP/File/Tang Chhin Sothy)


Staff of Samangkar Luxe Salon wash client's hair in Phnom Penh on March 9, 2009. Despite the global economic downturn, health experts say the business of cosmetic surgery in Cambodia has doubled, or even tripled in recent years.(AFP/File/Tang Chhin Sothy)

A clients has her hair washed at Samangkar Luxe Salon in Phnom Penh on March 9, 2009. Despite the global economic downturn, health experts say the business of cosmetic surgery in Cambodia has doubled, or even tripled in recent years.(AFP/File/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Staff of Samangkar Luxe Salon treat client's acne at the clinic in Phnom Penh on March 9, 2009. Despite the global economic downturn, health experts say the business of cosmetic surgery in Cambodia has doubled, or even tripled in recent years.(AFP/File/Tang Chhin Sothy)

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Phorn Lisa isn't just prepared to go under the knife for a new nose -- she's willing to risk her health.

"I?m very afraid, but ready for it," said the 25-year-old at a prominent cosmetic surgery clinic in Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh.

"I want to have a beautiful sharp nose because I?m not satisfied with my Cambodian big nose."

Despite the global economic downturn, health experts say the business of cosmetic surgery in Cambodia has doubled, or even tripled in recent years.

Davy Ariya, the owner of a clinic in the capital, says clients include wealthy Cambodians as well as "medical tourists" from the US, France and Australia.

"They mostly come for nose jobs, silicon implants, breast enlargements and scar revisions," Ariya said.

A nose job usually takes less than half an hour at Ariya's clinic and costs 280 to 600 dollars, depending on the quality of materials used in the operation.

Breast enlargements cost 1,500 to 1,700 dollars, a bargain compared to many countries even if it's nearly three times the average annual Cambodian income.

"Although it is seen as frivolous, the upsurge in the number of customers who come to me shows cosmetic surgery has become acceptable to Cambodian society," Ariya said.

Amid this surgical enhancement boom, many women are aiming for the what they perceive as the more delicate looks of popular Korean and Chinese film stars.

But even as operations become popular among the emerging middle class, Cambodia remains a country where laws are loosely enforced and many people calling themselves doctors have little training.

"Some people have gone to learn (surgery) in neighbouring countries for just several months. They come back and boast that they are skilled," said Sann Sary, head of the Ministry of Health's department of hospitals.

Cosmetic surgeons are required to register at Cambodia's health ministry and have proper qualifications, but most of them operate freely and illegally, he said.

"Some (illegal clinics) even go to great lengths to broadcast their clinics on television," Sann Sary said.

Veasna, 40, profoundly regrets the face lift she had at a cheap clinic -- and it is easy to see why. Her face is swollen and red, especially around the eyes.

"I've been in terrible pain," she said, visibly upset and awaiting corrective surgery. "But I want to look young and beautiful. Otherwise, my husband will run away with other girls."

Chhim Vattey, director of Phnom Penh's Samangkar Luxe Salon, employs a doctor trained in Japan who often corrects the mess left behind by poorly qualified surgeons.

After more than two decades, Chhim Vattey said she is surprised that so many Cambodians visit surgeons who are not properly licensed.

"Look out on the streets and you'll see scores of clinics mushrooming but without real qualification and skills," she says. "That's why I still have many patients who are victims of cosmetic surgery."

Reid Sheftall, an American plastic surgeon based in Phnom Penh, said he often fixes breasts or noses that have been put out of position, or tissue which has been damaged under too much tension.

"Some patients have had free silicone injected into their noses, faces, breasts and hands," Sheftall said.

"This is very dangerous because the silicone can migrate to other parts of the body and will form hard rubbery masses of scar tissue wherever it resides."

Despite those horror stories, the health ministry's Sann Sary said dubious surgical practices have continued in Cambodia's quest for beauty.

"We have advised (people) that to open cosmetic clinics legally, they must have an expert with qualification and years of experience," he said.

"That's because plastic surgery is a dangerous thing to do."

S’pore urges Thailand, Cambodia to "exercise utmost restraint"

S’pore urges Thailand, Cambodia to "exercise utmost restraint"

SINGAPORE : Singapore’s Foreign Affairs Ministry has urged Thailand and Cambodia to "exercise utmost restraint in the broader interests of the region", following reports of heavy gunfire at the border near the disputed Preah Vihear temple.

At least two Thai soldiers have reportedly been killed.

In response to media queries, MFA said it is "concerned" and has encouraged both parties to "resolve their differences peacefully through further negotiations". — CNA/ms

Cambodia's KRouge head of state appeals for bail

Khieu Samphan -- the head of state under Cambodia's Khmer Rouge -- has appealed to be released from detention ahead of his trial at the UN-backed war crimes court.(AFP/Pool/Heng Sinith)

by Patrick Falby – Fri Apr 3, 2009

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – The head of state under Cambodia's Khmer Rouge, Khieu Samphan, appealed to be released from detention Friday ahead of his trial at the UN-backed war crimes court.

Khieu Samphan, 77, is charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes but is seeking to be freed on bail from the purpose-built detention centre at the court.

"I can tell you that (Khieu Samphan) is not going to flee. The reason that he could be released is so that he can grow vegetables or do a bit of gardening for his own use," Cambodian co-defence lawyer Sa Sovan told the court.

As Khieu Samphan sat with his hands folded in his lap, his Cambodian lawyer disputed the arguments set out by the prosecution to justify his ongoing imprisonment.

Sa Sovan said there was no evidence his client would pressure witnesses if released or be attacked by Khmer Rouge victims seeking revenge.

But prosecutor Yet Chakriya said there was no guarantee letting Khieu Samphan out of jail would not disrupt public order, and cited a 1991 incident where he was attacked by a mob in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.

"A huge number of people surrounded him and threw rocks at him. It was only on the intervention by the government that Khieu Samphan escaped," Yet Chakriya said.

Khieu Samphan's other lawyer, famed attorney Jacques Verges attempted to raise the allegations that Cambodian tribunal staff were forced to pay kickbacks for their jobs.

Australian judge Rowan Downing, however, told him that it was not possible to talk about "a new issue" during proceedings in which he was supposed to be responding to prosecution arguments.

"If you believe we should not talk about corruption here, I shall not impose such a debate upon you," Verges responded.

"I shall also remain silent because the head of this state has publicly said he wanted this chamber to be brought to a conclusion. In this sense, you are moral squatters," Verges said.

His comments were a reference to remarks by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen earlier this week in which he said he would rather the UN-backed court failed than pursue more suspects for prosecution.

Frenchman Verges, who has acted for some of the world's most infamous figures including Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and Venezuelan terrorist "Carlos the Jackal," is known for attempting to sew confusion in the courtroom.

A fierce anti-colonialist, Verges, who was born in Thailand, reportedly befriended Khieu Samphan and other future Khmer Rouge leaders while at university in Paris in the 1950s.

The court is expected in the next few month to make a decision on whether to release the former leader.

Khieu Samphan's appeal comes in the same week two other suspects from the 1975-1979 regime also sought to be released from the detention centre.

Former foreign minister Ieng Sary on Thursday appealed to be released ahead of his trial on the grounds jail was affecting his health. The regime's prison chief, Duch, also sought to be released.

While Duch's trial is under way, no date has been set for the trials of Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and two other Khmer Rouge leaders held by the court.

Up to two million people were executed or died of starvation and overwork as the Khmer Rouge regime emptied Cambodia's cities, exiling the population to vast collective farms in its bid for a communist utopia.

Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in 1998. The court also plans to prosecute Ieng Sary's wife Ieng Thirith, who was the regime's minister of social affairs and former Khmer Rouge ideologue Nuon Chea.

Fighting Erupts on Preah Vihear Border

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
03 April 2009

Cambodian and Thai troops exchanged gun, rocket and artillery fire in clashes along the disputed Preah Vihear border on Friday, with both sides blaming the other for firing first in the most serious fighting to date in a months-long standoff.

Two Thai deaths and six injuries were confirmed by the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh, but Cambodian military sources said late Friday at least two more Thai soldiers were killed in afternoon battles. The Thai Embassy was not able to confirm the other two Thai fatalities.

There were conflicting reports of casualties from within the Cambodian government.

Ten Thai soldiers were being held as a result of the fighting, said government spokesman Khieu Kanharith, who told VOA Khmer no Cambodians were injured or killed.

However, Royal Cambodian Armed Forces commander Gen. Pol Sareoun said two Cambodians had been killed, in fighting started by the Thais.

Around 7:15 am, five Thai soldiers entered Veal Entry, or Eagle Field, encountering a forest encampment of Cambodian soldiers, who ordered them to turn back, military officials in Phnom Penh and on the border said.

Cambodian infantryman Chan Chhorn, who was monitoring radio traffic near Eagle Field Friday morning, told VOA Khmer the Thais had fired first.

The Thai Embassy could not confirm who shot first, but a Thai military spokesman told CNN in Bangkok that the fighting was sparked by an “intrusion” of Cambodian troops on Thai soil.

By 1:30 pm, the fighting had spread to three other sites—Phnom Trap, an area known as “Beehive,” and Krom market, near Preah Vihear temple—according to Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan, who provided reporters a map of the fighting late Friday.

A civilian market area burned and portions of Preah Vihear temple were damaged by rocket and machine gunfire Friday afternoon, Chan Chhorn said.

The fighting had stopped by Friday evening, officials said.

No civilians were reported dead Friday. A villager living near the temple said those who had motorcycles or cars had fled the area.

The shooting follows the injury to a landmine by one Thai soldier near Eagle Field Thursday and a tense armed standoff without shooting at Eagle Field on Monday and Tuesday. Eagle Field was also the site of fighting in October, where at least one Thai and three Cambodians died.

Thai and Cambodian troops have been amassed along the border since July 2008, when Preah Vihear temple’s Unesco World Heritage listing sparked protests in Bangkok and on the border.

Friday’s fighting was the most serious so far, in a series of escalations since July.

Both sides lay claim to a small stretch of land near the ancient cliff-top temple, with each using different map versions to mark the border.

Friday’s fighting had not canceled a scheduled meeting between joint border committees in Phnom Penh on Monday and Tuesday, according to Var Kimhong, chief of Cambodia’s border committee.

Prime Minister Hun Sen is expected to attend an Asean forum in Thailand next week. Officials could not confirm whether that trip will be canceled as a result of Friday’s fighting.

Khieu Samphan Requests Release

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
03 April 2009

Former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan requested his release from pre-trial detention on Friday, claiming he would not flee his own day in court and would spend his time farming.

Khieu Samphan, who is 78 and was arrested in November 2007, is facing charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, as nominal head of the regime.

Defense attorney Sa Sovan told the Pre-Trial Chamber of the tribunal that Khieu Samphan would not flee if released. Nor would he pressure witnesses or victims, nor “stir up social instability,” he said.

“He wants to stay outside detention, to plant fruit trees and vegetables,” Sa Sovan said. “So I have repeatedly asked the Pre-Trial Chamber to release Khieu Samphan on bail and have asked for court measures [to keep him confined to certain areas].”

Tribunal prosecutor Yet Chakrya told the court the detention was a “proper measure,” if only to protect Khieu Samphan’s safety.

“If we release Khieu Samphan on bail, he will have revenge sought against him by victims,” he said.

Khieu Samphan visited Phnom Penh in 1991 for the first time after the collapse of the Khmer Rouge. An angry mob of people surrounded his residence, and he was injured on the head as a result.

Tuol Sleng prison survivor Bu Meng, now 69, said Khieu Samphan should be held in detention, along with four other leaders, including the chief of that prison, Duch, who saw the first days of a substantive trial on Monday.

“Khieu Samphan cannot deny what he did in the Khmer Rouge regime, because he was the leader. I believe that if the court allows Khieu Samphan outside detention, it is very difficult [because] of revenge sought by victims.”

At least 10 members of Khieu Samphan’s family were present for Friday’s hearing.

“I’ve come here to know what the court accuses him of, and what the court is doing to find justice for him,” Khieu Samphan’s wife, So Socheath, told reporters after the hearing. “I want the court to show the evidence [linking him to] the killings. I want justice for the killings under the Khmer Rouge regime. Who gave the order for the killings? [Khieu Samphan] did not commit a crime, and I want the court to release him on bail.”

Tribunal a Model for Courts: Rights Leader

By Poch Reasey, VOA Khmer
Washington
03 April 2009

A leading member of Cambodia’s civil society praised the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal for reaching its first trial, of prison chief Duch this week, saying the tribunal could work as a model for the country’s widely criticized public court system.

The Khmer Rouge tribunal comprises three special chambers to Cambodia’s court system, established only to try former leaders of the regime. The regular public court system, however, faces continuous outcries over political bias and bribe-taking.

The tribunal Trial Chamber opened its first substantive trial this week, putting in the dock Kaing Kek Iev, better known as Duch, for his role as the chief of Tuol Sleng and Prey Sar prisons and the Choeung Ek execution site.

Duch admitted to all 260 crimes in his indictment and asked forgiveness from survivors of his killing machine and the families of victims.

"Although everyone knows the defendant committed serious crimes against humanity, and serious human rights violations, the court still gave him full rights to defend himself,” said Kek Galabru, the founder and president of the rights group Licadho.

The tribunal was demonstrating that non one can escape justice, she said, no mater how much time has passed.

“I think this court can be a model court for Cambodia when it decides to reform and improve its court systems,” she said, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

Cambodia has a rare opportunity to find justice for the victims of the Khmer Rouge, she said, adding that she does not want the court to stop if donors stop providing funds.

The Cambodian side of the tribunal is facing a budget crisis. It was only able to pay its staff in March thanks to a $200,000 infusion from the Japanese government. Allegations of corruption and mismanagement at the tribunal have made other donors reluctant to release funding.

Youth Now Focused on Future: Ambassador

By Poch Reasey, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh
03 April 2009

Carol Rodley became Cambodia’s ambassador in October 2008. In an interview with VOA Khmer in March, she discussed the growing relationship between Cambodia and the US, on topics ranging from the Khmer Rouge tribunal to the global financial crisis. Below is the first of a six-part series resulting from the interview.] (Part 1 of 3)

Q. We are making history here. The United States has elected the first African-American as president. Ambassador Scot Marciel is the first US Ambassador to Asean. And you are the first female US Ambassador to Cambodia.

A. It is of course a very exciting time for America, with the historical election of Barack Obama as president, and it’s very exciting to be representing America overseas at a time like this, because people all around the world seem to be very excited about his presidency. As far as being the first female ambassador of the United States in Cambodia, I can only say that I was very glad to come here and find a number of other female colleagues in the diplomatic corps. The Australian ambassador is a woman. The Chinese ambassador is a woman. The ambassador of Singapore is also a woman. It’s a brave new world.

Q. You were the former deputy chief of mission from 1997 to 2000. How did that experience prepare you to be the US ambassador to Cambodia?

A. It gave me a chance to get to know the Cambodian people, to know Cambodian history, to travel to the countryside and see for myself what’s going on, and it really just inspired in me a real love for Cambodia, for Cambodian culture and especially for the Cambodian people, who are very warm, friendly, open and easy to get to know.

Q. Have Cambodia and its people changed since you were here last time?

A. Yes, in some very interesting ways. What I find is that in 2009 Cambodians are much more confident; they know more about the world outside Cambodia. They are more connected to the outside world through the Internet, through studies abroad, through travel, through music and the arts. So they have become much more integrated with the rest of the world, and they have become noticeably more confident and more optimistic about the future. I would say they have become more forward looking. In the past people were very focused on the past. That’s understandable, because Cambodia went through a very hard time. But now I find Cambodia very much focused on the future. Of course, it’s such a young country [that] I think having a future focus with such a young population is a very natural thing.

Q. You have met with many high-ranking Cambodian officials since you arrived. What is your overall assessment of Cambodia?

A. Many of the officials I met, I consider them my friends. I knew them from when I was in Cambodia before. So it has been very good to renew those friendships and those relationships, and I find [the officials] working very hard. They are very focused on development across the board, in all ministries. It’s clear that the real priority of this government is development. I find them taking very seriously the global financial downturn and working hard on plans to weather the rough financial times ahead.

Q. Is Cambodia less affected in some ways?

A. The banking sector has almost no exposure to what we call the “toxic securities” that have caused such difficulty in the US banking sector and in some other developing countries and trading partners that have invested heavily in US securities or in the US mortgages. So Cambodia has been insulated a little bit in that area. But since the United States is Cambodia’s main export market—over 60 percent of all Cambodian exports go to the United States—the downturn in the American economy has had an inevitable and noticeable effect on the Cambodian economy. When Americans stop buying T-shirts, Cambodian garment factories are in a lot of trouble. And a number of them have closed already because demands are down.

US Wants More Rights Improvement

By Poch Reasey, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh
03 April 2009

[Editor’s note: Carol Rodley became Cambodia’s ambassador in October 2008. In an interview with VOA Khmer in March, she discussed the growing relationship between Cambodia and the US, on topics ranging from the Khmer Rouge tribunal to the global financial crisis. Below is the second of a six-part series resulting from the interview.]

Q. The most recent State Department annual human rights report on Cambodia indicates that Cambodia still has a poor rights record. As the US Ambassador to Cambodia, do you have any plans to help Cambodia improve that record?

A. I would say that the report this year acknowledges that some progress has been made and lays out those areas of progress but then also goes on to talk about in some detail areas that are still a problem. And we try to make that report as factual as possible. It’s intended to be based on facts, on actual cases, not on opinions. And we will continue to work with the government to address those areas that remain a concern.

I’ll give you an example: due process is one area of concern. This really is a central issue in a lot of the land cases that are so much in the local press and so much the concern of the human rights NGOs and a lot of civil society. I went to see the justice minister recently, and one of the things we talked about was the problem of due process and the plan that the government has for improving that situation. I would just say that no country has a perfect human rights record, my own included. Human rights, just like democracy, are something that can always be improved, and that’s the approach we are trying to take here.

Q. Has the US embassy done any workshops or programs that help strengthen the human rights area in Cambodia?

A. We have done a lot of work in the area of human rights over the years and also the rule of law in strengthening the judicial system. Recently we have been providing training for young lawyers. We have in the past provided training for the judges. We’ve funded a program to make information on court decisions more easily available to the public, so that people can look and see what kinds of cases the different courts heard and what kind of decisions the court came to in different kinds of cases. This is part of a push for greater openness and greater accountability.

Troops from Thailand and Cambodia fight on border

Thai soldiers stand guard in the disputed border area with Cambodia of Preah Vihear temple Photo: REUTERS


Soldiers from Thailand and Cambodia have fought a fierce battle at a temple on their disputed border.

Telegraph.co.uk

By Thomas Bell in Bangkok
03 Apr 2009

At least two Thai soldiers and two Cambodians were reported to have been killed in rocket and gun fire amid the 900-year-old ruins of the Preah Vihear Hindu temple.

In Phnom Penh, the Cambodian government claimed its army had killed at least four Thais and captured 10 more.

The temple, which has been claimed by both countries for decades, has been the scene of an armed standoff since tensions escalated last year.

Reports said that heavy fighting broke out between the two sides at several locations near the temple. Both armies blamed the other for firing first and denied entering the other's territory.

A Cambodian government spokesman, Khieu Kanharith, said: "We are fighting with each other, it is serious gunfire. Two of our soldiers have been killed. The gunfire is continuing in at least two areas."

Cambodia later denied losing any soldiers.

A Cambodian soldier posted at the border said: "We used heavy weapons including rockets, machineguns and mortars. In general, we used every weapon given to us. Many Thai soldiers ran away, leaving their weapons behind during the fight."

The spectacular ruin of Preah Vihear stands on a rocky ridge that forms the border between the two countries. In 1962 the International Court of Justice ruled that the site is inside Cambodia – a decision that still upsets many Thais.

But crucially the court did not rule on 1.8 square miles of jungle adjacent to the temple. That small patch of land is at the centre of the latest tensions.

The first shots appear to have been fired when the armies met in that disputed territory as they examined the site where a Thai soldier lost his leg to a landmine the day before.

On Tuesday the Cambodian prime minister, Hun Sen, accused Thai troops of entering his country the previous week and warned: "I tell you first, if you enter again, we will fight."

In a mark of the bad feeling between the two supposed allies he also lashed out at the Thai foreign minister Kasit Piromya, complaining: "He insults me - he has called me a gangster."

Mr Kasit later wrote to Hun Sen saying that there had been a "misunderstanding" and that the word he used "means a person who is lionhearted, a courageous and magnanimous gentleman".

A Thai dictionary shows that both translations are correct.

Last year, when Mr Kasit was a member of an opposition movement accused of exploiting the temple issue to whip up Thai nationalist sentiment, he appeared on television calling Hun Sen "crazy", "mentally unbalanced" and a "tramp".

Upon returning from the G20 meeting in London, the Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva sought to sooth tensions. "It was likely caused by a misunderstanding or accident. I have asked every agency to work to solve the incident by creating a better understanding with Cambodia," he said.

The Cambodian prime minister is due to visit Thailand for a regional economic summit next week.

Dispute turns deadly as Thai and Cambodian troops fight it out

By SUPALAK GANJANAKHUNDEE
THE NATION
Published on April 4, 2009

One Thai soldier, two Cambodians killed; PM cites misunderstanding

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has blamed a "misunderstanding" as the cause of a Thai-Cambodian border clash yesterday near the Preah Vihear Hindu temple in which one Thai and two Cambodian soldiers died.

Several other people, including officials, were injured as both sides exchanged gunfire on two occasions, in the morning and afternoon.

The first round at 7am lasted only five minutes and caused no casualties. But the second clash at around 2pm at Phu Ma Khua hill, west of the Hindu temple, killed one Thai soldier and injured seven officials.

Private Wuthikrai Weruwanarak died in the battle, the Thai military said.

Two Cambodian soldiers whose names were unknown were also killed, according to Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith.

The gunbattle and mortar explosions from the hill were heard for 25 minutes in the afternoon, said a local villager some 5 kilometres from the clash site.

Local residents did not panic and continued to work in their farms as usual since there was no instruction to evacuate, said the villager via a phone interview from Si Sa Ket province.

The afternoon clash erupted just seven hours after the morning's brief gun exchange and a phone call by Thai Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to discuss the problem.

The skirmishes followed a warning by Hun Sen last Tuesday that Thai soldiers should refrain from entering Cambodian territory. He said his soldiers had been instructed to fire on any intruders.

Prime Minister Abhisit, who returned from the London Group-20 Summit yesterday, said there may have been misunderstanding between troops in the area.

"It could happen - since both sides claim the same area as their respective territory. We try to use the existing mechanism of negotiation to prevent the conflict from escalating," Abhisit said.

Abhisit, who planned to visit Phnom Penh on April 18, said,if necessary, he might make a phone call to Prime Minister Hun Sen to discuss the situation.

"At this stage, I'll let the concerned officials of both sides work it out," he said.

The clash yesterday took place in the same area where, last October, fighting killed four soldiers on both sides.

Cambodia has claimed Thai troops had invaded its territory and would write a letter of protest to Bangkok.

The Thai Foreign Ministry said it had also prepared an official protest, since Cambodian troops apparently opened fire first on a Thai patrol.

Both sides should exercise utmost restraint since the Thai-Cambodia Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary (JBC) is working out a settlement to the border dispute and demarcation of the boundary, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat. The JBC is scheduled to meet in Phnom Penh on April 6-7.

4RD At least two dead in Cambodian-Thai border skirmish epa file photos (Roundup)

M&C

Asia-Pacific News
Apr 3, 2009

Phnom Penh/Bangkok - Cambodian and Thai soldiers fought a battle in a disputed border area Friday afternoon that resulted in two Thai deaths and escalated from a milder morning skirmish between the South-East Asian neighbours, officials said.

Thailand's Second Army Region Commander Lieutenant-General Viboonsak Neepal said one Thai soldier was killed at the site of the clash and another died later in hospital, according to the Thai News Agency. Half a dozen others were wounded.

Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said at one point during the day that two Cambodian soldiers were killed, but later said he could not confirm the number of deaths.

There was a brief firefight early in the morning when teams of soldiers from the two countries clashed near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, located 350 kilometres north-east of Bangkok.

In the Thai capital, Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Tarit Charungvat confirmed the deaths, saying the aggressive actions of the Cambodians started a pointless battle at the place where, last year, fighting has also erupted last year between the two countries.

'Our army chief is trying to talk to the Cambodian chief and is calling for them to exercise the utmost restraint,' Tarit said. 'We are asking them to return to the table for talks, which has been our position all along.'

The exchange of gunfire started when a team of soldiers went to investigate the planting of landmines in ground west of the temple that is claimed by both countries after a Thai infantryman lost a leg Thursday when he stepped on a landmine, the spokesman said.

'It seems that landmines were freshly planted in the area, which is against international calls for restraint in the use of landmines,' Tarit said. 'It appears this was an intrusion by Cambodia into that area. Our troops did not fire first and have only acted to defend themselves.'

But Khieu Kanharith accused the Thais of trying to capture territory for a larger offensive. He also claimed at that several Thai soldiers had been captured and at least four killed, something the Thais vigorously denied. 'We are prepared for any possibility,' he added.

Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan accused the Thais of first crossing over the border about 7:15 am (0015 GMT), forcing Cambodian soldiers to confront them.

The fighting occurred two days after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that his soldiers would aggressively respond to any intrusion by Thai soldiers.

Earlier, the Thai army commander, General Anupong Paochinda, said the morning incident was a result of a 'misunderstanding' and had no political meaning.

He said Hun Sen had accepted this explanation when Thai Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan telephoned to explain that a Thai squad had entered the area to investigate how the Thai soldier was wounded Thursday.

'Our moves in the area were made without any aggressive intentions,' Anupong said. 'This was a misunderstanding between lower ranks. We regard the border situation as normal - at least not something that should lead to any clashes.'

A top Thai military commander held discussions at the border Friday with his Cambodian counterparts to defuse the tension.

Thai army spokeswoman Colonel Sirichan Ngathong said the morning skirmish started when Thai soldiers where confronted by Cambodian troops 3 kilometers west of the temple.

The two sides talked at first, but the Cambodian side walked away, but then turned and fired shots that triggered an exchange of fire lasting about 10 minutes, she said.

Both sides said no troops were hurt in the earlier clash.

The border dispute escalated in July when clashes left two Cambodian soldiers dead and several Thais wounded shortly after UNESCO named the ancient Hindu Preah Vihear temple a World Heritage Site despite Thai objections.

The temple, the object of disputed claims between Thailand and Cambodia since the 1950s, was granted to Cambodia by a ruling of the International Court of Justice in 1962.

But land adjacent to the temple compound, including its main entrance on the Thai side, has been claimed by both countries. The two culturally similar countries often have prickly relations.

The border clashes occurred ahead of a scheduled visit by Hun Sen to Thailand next week for the summit of the Association of South-East Asian Nations and its dialogue partners in the Asia-Pacific.

They also followed an apology this week by Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya for calling the Cambodian prime minister a gangster in a Parliamentary debate. Kasit claimed the description had been wrongly translated.

Thai-Cambodian border dispute flares up

Radio Netherlands
By Johan van Slooten

03-04-2009

Tensions between Cambodia and Thailand have flared up after heavy gunfire was exchanged in the disputed border area near the ancient Preah Vihear temple. Killing two Thai soldiers and injuring six others, it was the latest in a series of incidents since October 2008, when two Cambodian soldiers were killed.

The Preah Vihear area is a top tourist attraction which was listed as a World Heritage site by Unesco last year. This listing reignited a decades old dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over which country actually owns the small piece of land. According to Thai journalist Marwaan Macan-Markar, the official border was never properly marked when Cambodia gained independence from France. "Since then, it's been a no man's land", Mr Macan-Markar explains. "But since the Unesco announcement, tensions have flared up because both countries realised how much tourist money it brings in".

Gunfire
Last summer, both Cambodia and Thailand moved soldiers into the area and since then, tensions have been high, occasionally leading to exchanges of gunfire. Earlier in the week, a Thai soldier tripped on a landmine, leading to fresh fighting, with the two deaths on Friday as a result.

Mechanism
The timing of the fighting is remarkable, as the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is about to visit Thailand next week as part of the ASEAN summit. According to Mr Macan-Markar, Preah Vihear will be one of the topics on the agenda. "There's been a lot of tough rhetoric from Cambodia, but both countries have developed a kind of mechanism to resolve these disputes".

Also, an earlier planned meeting of a special joint border committee will go ahead next week. "If the past is the indicator, there's no room for optimism that they will resolve the problem", says Mr Macan-Markar. "But at least the problem is discussed".

Khmer Rouge head of state appeals for bail

Mail & Guadian Online

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA - Apr 03 2009

The head of state under Cambodia's Khmer Rouge, Khieu Samphan, appealed to be released from detention on Friday ahead of his trial at the United Nations-backed war crimes court.

Khieu Samphan (77) is charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes, but is seeking to be freed on bail from the purpose-built detention centre at the court.

"I can tell you that [Khieu Samphan] is not going to flee. The reason that he could be released is so that he can grow vegetables or do a bit of gardening for his own use," Cambodian co-defence lawyer Sa Sovan told the court.

As Khieu Samphan sat with his hands folded in his lap, his Cambodian lawyer disputed the arguments set out by the prosecution to justify his ongoing imprisonment.

Sa Sovan said there was no evidence his client would pressure witnesses if released or be attacked by Khmer Rouge victims seeking revenge.

But prosecutor Yet Chakriya said there was no guarantee letting Khieu Samphan out of jail would not disrupt public order, and cited a 1991 incident where he was attacked by a mob in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.

"A huge number of people surrounded him and threw rocks at him. It was only on the intervention by the government that Khieu Samphan escaped," Yet Chakriya said.

Khieu Samphan's other lawyer, famed attorney Jacques Verges, attempted to raise the allegations that Cambodian tribunal staff were forced to pay kickbacks for their jobs.

Australian judge Rowan Downing, however, told him that it was not possible to talk about "a new issue" during proceedings in which he was supposed to be responding to prosecution arguments.

Three die in Thai-Cambodia gunbattles

The Standard

04-03 - 09

Cambodian and Thai troops fought heavy gunbattles along their disputed border, leaving three soldiers dead in a major flare-up of a long-running feud over an ancient temple.

Soldiers traded rocket, machinegun and mortar fire near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple on the frontier, following a brief exchange of shots earlier in the day, officials from both sides said.

The same area was the scene of several clashes last year after Cambodia successfully applied for United Nations world heritage status for the ruins in July, with four soldiers killed in a battle in October.

''We are fighting with each other, it is serious gunfire. Two of our soldiers have been killed,'' Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said. ''The gunfire is continuing in at least two areas,'' he added.

One Thai soldier was also killed, Seni Chittakasem, the governor of Thailand's Si Sa Ket province, said. Hospital officials said the dead man was shot in the chest and that 10 others were wounded, two of them critically.

Military commanders later held talks to ease tensions near the flashpoint temple, ownership of which was awarded to Cambodia in 1962 by the International Court of Justice, although the land around the ruins remains disputed.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Cambodia says 4 Thai soldiers killed in clashes at border near 11th century temple

Apr 3, 2009
By SOPHENG CHEANG
Associated Press Writer

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) -- Thai and Cambodian soldiers revived a long-simmering dispute over an 11th century temple near their border, trading fire Friday with machine guns and rocket launchers in clashes that left as many as four people dead.

The latest flare-up - if not quickly resolved - could overshadow a summit of Asian leaders opening next week in the Thai coastal town of Pattaya. The summit already was delayed once in December after anti-government demonstrators took over Thailand's two main airports in Bangkok.

The fighting broke out near the cliff-top Preah Vihear temple, which is on the Cambodian side of an ill-defined border. Soldiers clashed again hours later, but the area was quiet by evening and the two sides were in talks to defuse the crisis.

Accounts from the two sides varied on casualties and other details. Both sides said Cambodia fired first, but Cambodian officials said it was because Thais strayed into their territory, while Thailand's Foreign Ministry denied that its soldiers left its territory. The ministry said the Thai soldiers were investigating a land mine blast the previous day that blew off a leg of their colleague.

Both sides said the other fired machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said four Thai soldiers were killed and 10 captured. Thailand's Foreign Ministry insisted only one Thai soldier was killed, seven were injured and none was taken prisoner, while two Thai army officers, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, said two soldiers were killed and 10 injured.

"The fighting has stopped. Commanders from both sides are talking," Maj. Nou Sarath, a Cambodian soldier at the border, told The Associated Press.

Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said the talks later adjourned and would resume Saturday.

Leaders in both countries have a history of playing to nationalist sentiment in soveriegnty disputes.

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen is a blunt, tough-talking leader who has warned that he is willing to go to war over the temple.

Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is more diplomatic but his supporters include the yellow-shirted activists of the People Alliance for Democracy, who are intensely nationalistic and last year rallied around the temple dispute in their campaign against the previous government. They brought the administration to a near standstill in November by besieging government offices and the Bangkok airports.

Michael Montesano, a research fellow at Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, said Abhisit cannot afford to be seen as weak on this issue.

"The yellow shirts made Preah Vihear an issue and any feeling on their part that Abhisit is insufficiently nationalist and insufficiently tough with the Khmer (Cambodians) could risk the yellow shirts withdrawing some of their support," he said.

The World Court awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, but sovereignty over the surrounding land has never been clearly resolved.

Tensions flared last July when UNESCO, the U.N. cultural agency, approved Cambodia's bid to have the Preah Vihear temple named a World Heritage Site, leading some Thais to believe their claims to the surrounding land was being undermined.

The tensions erupted in brief border clashes last year, killing two Cambodian soldiers and one Thai, and both sides have stepped up deployment of soldiers at the border since then.

Three dead in Thailand-Cambodia border clash

Khaleej Times

(AFP)
3 April 2009

PHNOM PENH - Cambodian and Thai troops fought heavy gunbattles along their disputed border on Friday, leaving three soldiers dead in a major flare-up of a long-running feud over an ancient temple.

Soldiers traded rocket, machinegun and mortar fire near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple on the frontier, following a brief exchange of shots earlier in the day, officials from both sides said.

The same area was the scene of several clashes last year after Cambodia successfully applied for United Nations world heritage status for the ruins in July, with four soldiers killed in a battle there in October.

‘We are fighting with each other, it is serious gunfire. Two of our soldiers have been killed,’ Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said. ‘The gunfire is continuing in at least two areas,’ he added.

One Thai soldier was also killed, Seni Chittakasem, the governor of Thailand’s Si Sa Ket province, told AFP. Hospital officials said the dead man was shot in the chest and that 10 others were wounded, two of them critically.

Military commanders later held talks to ease tensions near the flashpoint temple, ownership of which was awarded to Cambodia in 1962 by the International Court of Justice, although the land around the ruins remains disputed.

But a war of words continued between the two sides after the clash, coming just one week before the prime ministers of the neighbouring countries are due to meet at a key regional summit in Thailand.

‘This is an intended aggressive invasion by the Thai military,’ said Cambodian foreign ministry spokesman Koy Kuong. ‘The foreign ministry will... write a protest letter about the invasion by Thailand.’

Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva said he was ready to call his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen about the matter but defended Bangkok’s rights to ‘preserve our sovereignty.’

‘It was likely caused by a misunderstanding or accident. I have asked every agency to work to solve the incident by creating a better understanding with Cambodia,’ Abhisit said on his return from the G20 summit in London.

Cambodian and Thai authorities confirmed heavy gunfire had broken out at 2:00 pm (0700 GMT) in a number of spots near the border, which has never been fully demarcated due to landmines left after decades of war in Cambodia.

Several officials said the fighting had ended between half and hour and an hour later.

A Cambodian soldier posted at the border, Yeim Kheang, told AFP by telephone that a Cambodian market at the gateway to the temple had been badly burned during the fighting.

‘We used heavy weapons including rockets, machineguns and mortars. In general, we used every weapon given to us. Many Thai soldiers ran away, leaving their weapons behind during the fight,’ Yeim Kheang said.

Tensions had been high since an exchange of shots early in the morning after Cambodian soldiers went to investigate the area where a Thai soldier stepped on a landmine on Thursday and lost his leg.

Both sides blamed each other for the first clash.

The clashes came three days after Hun Sen warned Thailand that it would face fighting if its troops crossed their disputed frontier. Thailand denies claims that about 100 of its troops went over the frontier a week ago.

Tensions first flared along the border in July last year over the granting of UN heritage to the temple on the border.

Subsequent talks between Cambodia and Thailand have not resolved the dispute and Thailand’s foreign minister was forced to apologise Thursday, after being accused by Hun Sen of calling him a gangster.

Further talks are due on Monday and Tuesday in Phnom Penh and there was no immediate indication that they would be cancelled due to the clash.

Hun Sen and Abhisit are scheduled to take part in a summit between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and key regional partners in the Thai resort of Pattaya, starting on April 10.