Wed, Feb 09, 2011
The Brunei Times/Asia News Network
THE guns went blazing anew in the jungle near the Preah Vihear Temple as Thai and Cambodian troops clashed for the fourth straight day on Monday over the disputed border area.
When silence reigned after several hours of shelling and machine gun fire, the Cambodian government said five people were killed and 45 injured on its side of the border. The deaths brought to 10 the number of those killed while the wounded now placed at 85 with thousands evacuated.
The conundrum about the newest round of clashes between Cambodian and Thai troops is that there is no clear reason behind it. Both sides blame each other for starting the clashes five days ago and for breaking a shaky ceasefire agreed between the two armies on Friday night.
Furthermore, the reports said the skirmishes could have occurred as a result of a misunderstanding or a breakdown in communication channels. With the deployment of more soldiers who are tensed and unfamiliar with the terrain and the situation, something as simple as a few warning shots or border patrols straying too far could have set things off.
The acerbic exchange of words between Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Thai Foreign Ministry will definitely not help to neutralise the tension. Hun Sen said his counterpart Abhisit Vejjajiva was hungry for war while the Thai officials accused Cambodia of committing an act of aggression in violation of Thai sovereignty and territorial integrity.
This new round of gunfight will definitely not be the last armed encounter to take place in the disputed border zone, and the landmark temple will be a mute witness to many more needless bloodbaths and for what? Over a stretch of jungle? For national pride? Lives are being lost over murky reasons.
The Asean and not the UN should put an end to this needless loss of lives. The regional body will also be the one at the losing end if the Cambodia-Thailand struggle will persist. National pride is indeed greatly valued in this region, but the two countries must remember that ruling and talking through the barrel of the gun is not the answer.