Published Date: 06 February 2011
By Sopheng Cheang
CLASHES between Cambodian and Thai troops in a disputed border region left one soldier dead and forced thousands of civilians to flee before a new ceasefire was agreed yesterday.
The truce is the second to be called in two days.
A landmark 11th century temple, the focus of the dispute, was damaged in what has been the fiercest fighting in years, fuelled by Thai nationalist protests.
It is estimated at least four people
ADVERTISEMENThave been killed, including a soldier and civilian from each of the two nations. Each side blames the other for starting the fighting.
Tensions between the Southeast Asian neighbours have risen in recent days because of demonstrations by influential Thai nationalist groups in the capital, Bangkok. Thai nationalists have demanded the government clear Cambodians from land near the ancient Preah Vihear temple - sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists. The nationalists claim the land is actually part of Thailand.
The demonstrators - from the same group, the People's Alliance for Democracy, that in 2008 occupied the Thai prime minister's offices and Bangkok's two airports in a bid to force out two previous governments - have said they will escalate their pressure on Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.
The rally by the PAD - also known as the Yellow Shirts - has raised tensions in a country still recovering from political violence last year in which an estimated 90 people were killed.
While full-blown war is unlikely, nationalist passions are inflamed in both countries - with no clear way to settle the territorial row surrounding the temple, built during a time when Cambodia's Khmer empire ruled over much of Thailand.
Thai army spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd said 2nd region army Commander Lieutenant General Tawatchai Samutsakhon met Cambodian generals after yesterday's fighting to agree a ceasefire and to stop reinforcements being brought in.
The two sides also agreed that Thailand would suspend construction of a road to the disputed area, which covers less than two square miles.
"New fighting will erupt if Thai soldiers enter our territory, but there will be no fighting if they do not enter," Cambodian Major General Srey Doek said.
The latest round of fighting began on Friday on land near the temple, a UN world heritage site that technically belongs to Cambodia under a 1962 World Court ruling still disputed by the Thais.