Saturday, 5 February 2011

One Killed, Five Injured As Thai, Cambodian Troops Exchange Fire

via CAAI

BANGKOK, Feb 4 (Bernama) -- A man was killed and five others were injured when Thai and Cambodian troops exchanged fire near the disputed territory of Preah Vihear Temple at Thai-Cambodia border Friday, hours after both nations insisted on a peaceful settlement to their border disputes.

Public Health Minister Jurin Laksanawisit said Chareon Phahom, 59, a local, was killed when mortar shells hit his village in Kantaralak district, Si Sa Ket province, near the disputed area.

Five Thai soldiers were injured in the 3pm incident.

"After getting fired, we shoot back. First the warning shot and then we retaliate and shoot back," said Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva Friday night.

He said the fighting at the border ceased at about 7pm.

Thailand and Cambodia have been building up their forces, mobilising additional troops and heavy weapons near the disputed territory in recent days following mounting tensions at the border.

"We have to admit that both nations have retained forces there especially near the Preah Vihear Temple," said Abhisit.

Earlier in the morning, Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya met his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong during the Joint Commission meeting in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Both leaders were reported by local media that they had agreed not to blow up the issue concerning the raising of their respective national flags in the disputed territory.

It was also reported that the two countries would continue efforts to ease border tensions by continuing demarcation negotiations through the Joint Border Commission.

Both countries claimed sovereignty over an area of 4.6 square kilometres surrounding the 11th century Hindu temple which Unesco listed as a World Heritage Site in 2008.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the temple was situated in Cambodia.

There have been several clashes between both sides in the past as the overlapping claims remain unresolved.

The Thai-Cambodia border dispute worsened after a Cambodian court on Jan 21 sentenced five Thais to nine months in jail for illegal entry.

They were later freed after serving nearly a month of their jail sentence.

Two others were sentenced on Feb 1 to eight and six years' jail respectively for espionage, illegal entry and trespassing in a military zone.

The Thai Patriots Network claimed that they were detained on Thai soil, abducted and produced in Cambodian court.

The group and the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) or popularly known as the Yellow Shirts, have been staging demonstrations in this capital city since Jan 25, urging the Thai government take a tougher stand in solving the dispute.

They want the government to revoke the memorandum of understanding on the Thai-Cambodia border that was signed in 2000, withdraw Thailand from the Unesco World Heritage Committee and expel Cambodians from the disputed area.

The Thai government had refused to submit to the three demands as the MoU had paved the way for a peaceful settlement, with Bangkok saying that the World Heritage Committee was an important platform for the country to voice out its stand on the disputed area when the committee decides on the temple's management.

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