Web Editor: Guo
As of Friday, two days have passed without gunshots disturbing the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple after the Feb. 4-7 bloody clashes between Cambodian and Thai troops, but there's a fear that real peace is still far out of reach in the disputed border area.
The skirmishes, in which heavy weapons including rockets, machine guns, mortars and artillery were resorted to, have reportedly killed at least eight Cambodian and three Thai soldiers, wounding many more, and compelling tens of thousands of villagers to flee home for shelters.
Witnesses said damage was done to the 900-year-old temple, a World Heritage site, and that although firing had stopped for two days, additional Thai tanks were seen en route to the contested areas, and Cambodia's military deployment near the frontier was not lessened.
The border between Thailand and Cambodia has never been completely demarcated. Although the International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the temple itself belonged to Cambodia, the row over the 4.6-square-km territory around the temple has never been resolved.
As the international community urges both sides to display restraint and calls for a peaceful solution to their age-old territorial dispute, the two neighbors are even at odds over the way of working the matter out.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen favors the United Nations Security Council's decision to hold a meeting on Feb. 14 to discuss the Cambodian-Thai border dispute.
"There will be no more bilateral talks, and all negotiations will be participated by the third party," Hun Sen said.
The premier said Cambodia will send Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong, also minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation, to New York to explain about Thailand's aggression into the Cambodian territory near the temple.
The meeting is also expected to be joined by Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, and Marty Natalegawa, foreign minister of Indonesia, the rotating chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that includes Cambodia and Thailand.
But Thai Foreign Minister's secretary Chavanont Intarakomalyasut on Wednesday told Xinhua that Thailand will still try to solve the dispute with Cambodia bilaterally despite the scheduled UN meeting.
What triggered the latest fighting between the two ASEAN members remains unknown. According to the Thai side, Cambodian soldiers were using the Preah Vihear temple as a "heavy arms base" to fire at Thai soldiers stationed in areas in Thai territory that were at lower elevation.
Cambodia strongly rejected the "fabricated accusation," saying "at all time there are only a small number of policemen with only light weapons" for safety purpose at the temple, which "has always been a place for worship and tourism." Meanwhile, Hun Sen has earlier accused Thai troops of firing cluster bombs at Cambodian troops.
The premier on Wednesday termed the recent clashes with Thailand "the real war," instead of a mere "military clash."
"Thailand created this war. (Thai Prime Minister) Abhisit must be responsible for the war," Hun Sen said.
"Our war with Thailand will be taking long time," he added.