Saturday, 30 April 2011

Broken ceasefire leaves trust in tatters

via CAAI

Hun Sen's sincerity is doubted by military

Published: 30/04/2011
Newspaper section: News

The government has voiced disappointment over the clashes at the Thai-Cambodian border which broke out only 10 hours after a ceasefire agreement was reached.

The fighting prompted a joint press conference between the army, the government and the Foreign Ministry.

"Thailand is very disappointed about the clashes that show Cambodia's insincerity despite the fact that the field troops of both sides had agreed to a ceasefire," said acting government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn.

"The government insists on its stance that the ceasefire must be strictly observed before further talks are pursued. The prime minister has made it clear he is happy to hold a dialogue. But if the situation doesn't improve, a dialogue will not be as useful as it is supposed to," he said. Both sides agreed to a truce as of 12pm on Thursday after talks between the 2nd Army's Lt Gen Thawatchai Samutsakhon and Lt Gen Chea Mon, chief of the Cambodian 4th Region Army, at a casino at the Chong Jom-O Samet checkpoint in Surin's Kap Choeng district.

However around 9.30pm the same day, fighting with rifles and hand-grenades erupted and lasted for an hour. A second round of fighting reportedly took place at 2am yesterday and ended at 6am.

One Thai soldier was killed and four injured, increasing the total deaths on the Thai side to eight, including one civilian, after continuous clashes erupted on April 22.

Cambodia has reported that at least eight of its troops have been killed.

Gunfire was confirmed near Ta Kwai temple last night.

"Cambodian troops attacked first by firing rifles and throwing grenades at us," army commander Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha said yesterday.

"We just responded to their attack with rifles but if it happens again we will have to retaliate further," he said, adding the talks on Thursday were not some sort of commitment.

Gen Prayuth revealed that Cambodian military commanders had made contact following the fighting and agreed to uncover why the agreed ceasefire had been broken.

The army chief said that Cambodia intends to use the border skirmishes to internationalise the border disputes.

He added that bilateral talks are the preferable way to resolve the border conflict, but noted that if a third party has to be involved there is nothing he can do about it.

"I'm not sure if [Cambodian prime minister] Hun Sen has sincerity, I don't know what he is thinking. We can't change him," said Gen Prayuth.

Army spokesman Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd said there could be a communication breakdown among Cambodian troops.

"If we look on the bright side, it might be a communication problem because the commander in charge of the area where the fighting erupts is not Lt Gen Chea Mon," he said.

However, he added that a group of 10 military officers was dispatched early yesterday to discuss how to avoid further clashes.

Col Sansern insisted that further steps to negotiations were out of the question as long as the border fighting continued.

Second Army Region spokesman Prawit Hookaew said yesterday the incident was not an actual breach of the ceasefire agreement because the talks had been informal.

"It can't guarantee there will be no more fighting. They wanted field commanders to make contact immediately when any clash erupted to contain the situation," he said.

Meanwhile, Cambodia has accused Thai troops of initiating the fighting.

The resumption of hostilities so soon after a peace deal demonstrated the "pointlessness of bilateral negotiations", said the Cambodian government, which has continuously campaigned for a third party to be involved.

"Less than 12 hours [after the agreement] the Thai military again attacked, and fighting continued until the next morning," it said.

A Thai government source at the border noted that the Thai military might have talked to the wrong people.

Lt Gen Chea Mon does not have "real" power over the troops in the combat areas, said the source.

The areas where the border skirmishes have taken place for the past week are under the jurisdiction of deputy army commander Gen Chim Janpua, according to the source.

Local villagers in Ban Nong Danna on Surin's Phanom Dong Rak district said yesterday they heard the sound of sporadic gunfire throughout Thursday night. However they said there was no artillery shelling.

Chong Jom checkpoint in Surin's Kap Choeng district remained closed yesterday and trading was limited.

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