Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Fighting continues

via CAAI

By Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Phnom Penh/Bangkok

The Cambodian government has confirmed that Thailand's defence minister has pulled out of ceasefire talks that were scheduled to be held in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.

The two countries have engaged in five straight days of fighting that have left at least 13 soldiers dead and around 50 wounded on both sides.

Cambodia said shots were exchanged early Wednesday at two sites along the contested border.

On Tuesday the Cambodian Defence Ministry announced that Thailand's Defence Minister, General Prawit Wongsuwan, would meet his Cambodian counterpart Tea Banh, something Thai media later confirmed.

But on Wednesday Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan told the German Press Agency dpa that Prawit had cancelled his visit, but had given no reason.

"We didn't trust that they would come at all," he said.

The cancellation of the ceasefire talks was a blow to hopes that the border clashes might end. Indonesia, as current chair of the regional Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc, has tried to mediate between the two nations.

Part of that effort was a plan to station Indonesian observers along the contested border, but that failed Monday when Thailand objected to certain aspects of the deal.

On Tuesday a Thai government spokesman said Bangkok would agree to Indonesian border monitors, provided Cambodia pulled its troops out of Preah Vihear temple, near another disputed border area around 150 kilometres east of the recent clashes.

Phay Siphan said that condition was unacceptable to Phnom Penh.

"They cannot order us to pull out of our land - it is de jure and defac to Cambodia," he said on Wednesday. "Thailand is looking for an opportunity to invade and occupy our land."

Phay Siphan said Wednesday that troops were exchanging rifle fire around the ancient temples of Ta Moan and Ta Krabei, known in Thai as Ta Muen and Ta Kwai.

He said there was no word on Cambodian casualties, adding that the situation near Preah Vihear temple was quiet.

The clashes started on Friday near Ta Krabei and Ta Moan.

Each side has blamed the other for the fighting over the past six days.

At least eight Cambodians have been killed and 17 wounded, while one is missing. A Thai army spokesman said Tuesday that five Thai soldiers had been killed and 31 injured.

Cambodia said more than 22,000 of its citizens had fled the border region, while Thailand said around 30,000 civilians had been evacuated from their villages.

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