Saturday, 12 February 2011

20,000 troops ready to head to the border

via CAAI

Army wants B200m for 'Preah Vihear mission'

Published: 12/02/2011

More than 20,000 soldiers will be deployed along the Thai-Cambodian border as part of a national defence plan and an incident action plan approved by the army commander, an army source says.

The source yesterday said army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha approved the plan last Friday and it will remain in effect until March 30.

Under the plan, a total of 23,641 troops will be deployed at the border.

The army has also submitted a request for more than 200 million baht to support an army mission codenamed "Preah Vihear battlefield" from the cabinet, the source said.

The source said the army has also sought cabinet approval for the procurement of additional ammunition because a lot of ammunition was used in clashes with Cambodian troops between Feb 4-6. The army is also seeking an additional budget to pay for allowances for army personnel at the border.

However, the source said not all of the more than 20,000 troops will be stationed in the disputed border area.

Some will be deployed at the front lines of defence while others will be placed along the border at Sa Kaeo, Surin, Ubon Ratchathani and at the Preah Vihear temple near Si Sa Ket, the source said.

They will be given different tasks to perform in command units, combat forces, logistics units, and other units under the national defence plan.

Second Army chief Thawatchai Samutsakhon said yesterday Thai soldiers will remain at the border until peace talks between the Thai and Cambodian governments achieve results.

"I hope the talks between the government, the Foreign Ministry and the Joint Boundary Commission will improve the situation. But now, the army must continue to maintain a military presence," Lt Gen Thawatchai said.

Lt Gen Thawatchai rejected accusations by Cambodian authorities that Thai troops used cluster bombs during the border fighting.

The armed forces have adhered to an international law which bans the use of such bombs, he said.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday held a teleconference with the 2nd Army chief and Si Sa Ket governor Somsak Suwansujarit to assess the border situation.

It was agreed at the meeting that the more than 21,000 villagers who fled their villages during the border clashes and who were staying at 37 temporary evacuation centres in Si Sa Ket can return home today. Lt Gen Thawatchai said Thai soldiers are ready to ensure their safety after they go back home.

Mr Somsak said although there is no guarantee that fresh fighting will not erupt at the border, the villagers have to return home because conditions at the evacuation centres are uncomfortable and the heat unbearable.

Many villagers also wanted to get back to their jobs to make money, Mr Somsak said.

The navy has also put its forces on full alert at the maritime border with Cambodia off Chanthaburi and Trat after reports that Cambodian naval vessels have entered the area.

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