Thursday, 3 March 2011

Cambodian move raises border tension

via CAAI

Published: 2/03/2011
Online news: Asia

A Cambodian bid to take a group of foreign military attaches into part of the disputed 4.6 square kilometres around Preah Vihear temple has raised tension, again, on the border in Si Sa Ket province, a military source said on Wednesday.

The source said that Thai troops were put on a continuing alert in the 4.6 sq-km area, especially around the Preah Vihear temple, as a precaution, from Tuesday night.

The tension flared after Cambodia informed the Thai soldiers that it planned to bring the military attaches of 10 countries from Phnom Penh into the disputed area on Wednesday. The Thai side denied them permission.

Cambodia wanted the attaches to see important spots, including the damage to Wat Kaeo Sikha Kiri Savara and the area around it, which is in Thai terrority, the source said.

"There would be no problems if the attaches were taken specifically to see Preah Vihear temple, but we cannot allow them to go into the disputed area which has been occupied by Cambodian soldiers. We also regard the disputed area as ours," said the source.

The source said when Thailand took military attaches of 14 countries to the border in the middle of last month; they were taken to see only Mor E-daeng cliff and Phum Srol village on the Thai side of the border. They did not enter the disputed area.

The rejection caused Cambodia to postpone the visit until Thursday. Thai troops have been put on the alert. It was not known whether Cambodia would persist with the visit or cancel it, the source said.

The source said the Thai military attaché in Phnom Penh had contacted the military attaches of other countries and been told they wanted the visit postponed for fear of sparking a new confrontation between Thailand and Cambodia.

Meanwhile, reports reaching the Thai military said Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had ordered a change to the border forces, replacing the current soldiers with those of the Khmer Rouge.

The source said Khmer Rouge soldiers were viewed as intended more for combat than for promoting a good relationship.

Yellow-shirt activist Veera Somkwamkid (left) and Democrat MP Panich Vikitsreth

Democrat Party MP Panich Vikitsreth said the health of yellow-shirt activist Veera Somkwamkid, who is imprisoned in Cambodia, is deteriorating.

Mr Panich, one of the seven Thais arrested by Cambodian troops on Dec 29 last year for illegal entry, said Mr Veera had a head injury, skin rashes and respiratory illness due to poor air circulation in his cell.

The MP said he had talked with the mothers of Mr Veera and his secretary Ratree Pipatanapaiboon, who is also detained in Phnom Penh. Both mothers were concerned for Mr Veera and Ms Ratree and wanted them to be released as soon as possible.

The quickest way to get them released was to petition the Cambodian monarch to grant the pair a royal pardon, he said.

Mr Panich said he hoped the case of Mr Veera and Ms Ratree would be treated similarly to the case of Thai engineer Sivarak Chutipong who was granted a royal pardon by Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni before serving the usual two-thirds of his sentence.

Mr Sivarak was found guilty of stealing the flight plan of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra ahead of his visit to Cambodia in 2009.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Feb 1 jailed Mr Veera for eight years, and Ms Ratree for six years, after they were found guilty of illegal entry and espionage on Dec 29.

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