Sunday, 6 March 2011

Troops go back to work at the border

via CAAI

Published: 6/03/2011
Newspaper section: News

Border tensions near Preah Vihear temple have risen again as both sides have resumed construction of roads to serve military operations in the disputed border area despite each other's protests against such action.

Thai soldiers on Friday resumed building a laterite road from Pha Mor I Dang cliff to Sa Trao, an ancient reservoir on the northern axis of Preah Vihear where Thai border patrol police had been stationed.

The road will be two kilometres long.

Thai soldiers had completed 70% of the road when border clashes on Feb 4 brought its construction to a halt.

The sources said Thai soldiers built the road in response to Cambodian soldiers' construction of two roads in the disputed area. "Actually, we have to build the road all the way to the entrance of the Preah Vihear temple on the Thai side of the border," an army source said. "We had to stop when the Cambodians protested against it, but now we have to continue building the road as far as possible so it can be used as a military logistics route, too."

The source said Thai soldiers would use the laterite road to reach Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda, which is in the 4.6-square-kilometre disputed area and currently occupied by Cambodian troops.

Thai troops once built a pathway to Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda, which sits on land claimed by Thailand, but they could no longer use that route because Cambodian troops occupied it after breaching an agreement to withdraw military forces.

Thai troops withdrew on Oct 1 last year but the Cambodian soldiers did not, so Thai troops have to build a new road to the pagoda, the source said.

Cambodian troops yesterday also resumed construction of its two roads.

One road will lead to the first-level gopura (arch) at the entrance of the Preah Vihear temple.

The other will be used to send reinforcements to the Phu Makhua mountain area, west of the Preah Vihear temple.

Both sides have protested against the resumption of each other's road construction efforts. "The Cambodians have resumed construction, so we have too," said the source.

"We won't be at an disadvantage. Thai troops are ready if Cambodians are the first to open fire."

Cambodia on Thursday took foreign military attaches on a visit to Preah Vihear temple and Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda, despite protests from Thai troops.

The move is seen as a violation of an agreement reached in 2000 that neither country would take any person into the disputed area without the consent of the other side.

The Suranaree task force plans to conduct a drill on Tuesday in the border area in response to Cambodian's fresh deployment of artillery and troops around Preah Vihear and Phu Makhua. The roads under construction by the two sides could be the catalyst for a new round of clashes between the two countries.

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