By Sinfah Tunsarawuth
BANGKOK, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- Thailand insisted on Monday that it did not start the recent crossfire with Cambodia and the country preferred to solve the current conflict with Cambodia through bilateral mechanism.
At the first formal press conference since the crossfire erupted last Friday, senior Thai government officials implied that Phnom Penh has tried to seek UN intervention on the border issue, a move rejected by Bangkok.
"The Thai side did not start the shooting and we returned the fire to make the Cambodians stop," army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said at the press conference at the Government House.
Sansern, giving a chronology of the crossfire that began on Friday's afternoon, said that despite an agreement of truce on the following day, exchange of heavy-gun firing between the two countries erupted again on Sunday's evening.
He said since the start of the firing, one Thai soldier and one civilian were killed while another 25 soldiers were injured.
Sansern implied that the eruption of crossfire after the truce agreement could be a result of miscommunication between Cambodian soldiers on the field and their commanders at their headquarters and senior officials in Phnom Penh.
As of Monday's afternoon, there was no report on any further violence in Thailand's northeastern Si Sa Ket province, which borders Cambodia.
"What has happened is not an intrusion by the Thai side," Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to Thai foreign minister, told the same conference. "But it is a protection of the Thai sovereignty."
He said Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya has made a phone call to his Cambodian counterpart, Hor Namhong, and both agreed that the current conflict should be resolved through the existing Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary (JBC).
The JBC, led by senior government officials of both countries, is scheduled to meet in the last week of February, but a specific date has not been set yet.
The JBC together with the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by Thailand and Cambodia in 2000 is the key framework for settling the two countries' disputed border areas, which involved a 4.6-square kilometer piece of land near the World Heritage's Preah Vihear temple. Both nations have claimed possession of this piece of land.
Chavanond said the Thai government has sent a letter to the World Heritage committee and the director general of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in asking the committee not to take any further step regarding the registration of the Preah Vihear temple.
He said any further action on the registration will further complicate the conflict and that the two countries should be allowed to negotiate on the border disputes first.
Unilaterally, Phnom Penh has the Preah Vihear temple enlisted as a World Heritage site on July 7, 2008.
Chavanond said the Thai government will soon send a letter to the UN Security Council in response to an earlier letter sent by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.
He said the action by Hun Sen showed that Cambodia had a " hidden motive" in wanting to make the current conflict an international issue.
"Thailand reaffirms that it can solve the issue through bilateral mechanism," the secretary to the Thai foreign minister said.
"We will fully exercise our patience and restraint," he continued. "But at the same time, we need to exercise the right of self-defense on the basis of necessity and proportionality."
Chavanond also mentioned that Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, as the current chair of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), is scheduled to arrive in Bangkok on Tuesday, Feb. 8.
Chavanond said Thailand will brief the Indonesian minister on the current situation on its border disputes with Cambodia, but is not seeking any mediation by ASEAN, to which both Thailand and Cambodia are members.
Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn told the same press conference that the government has now set up two centers for news release on the border conflict one at the army-run Channel 5 television and the other at the Government House.
Sansern said news footage and photographs published by news media could expose Thai military strength to the Cambodians.