Thursday, 28 April 2011

Fighting resumes along Thai-Cambodian border, spreads to new area

Cambodian soldiers inspect a multi-rocket launcher near the Cambodian-Thai border in Oddar Meanchey province, Cambodia, 26 April 2011. Border clashes between Thai and Cambodian troops after four days of fighting killed and injured soldiers on both sides and forced thousands of civilians to evacuate their villages near two disputed temples. Both sides blame the other for instigating the fighting. EPA/MAK REMISSA
via CAA

Phnom Penh/Bangkok - Cambodia said fighting between its forces and Thailand had resumed in four places along their disputed border as of early Thursday.

Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan said the clashes, which started the previous evening, involved heavy artillery and small arms fire, and were focused on the border around the contested temples of Ta Moan and Ta Krabei in north-west Cambodia, as well as a village called Thmar Doun, which lies between the two temples.

Phay Siphan said fighting had also broken out at the border crossing town of O'Smach further east.

Hundreds of civilians fled O'Smach town late Wednesday, the Phnom Penh Post newspaper reported Thursday.

Phay Siphan said Bangkok had not replied to the proposal by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen that the nations' two leaders meet at the May 7-8 regional summit of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Jakarta.

'We don't hear anything,' he said. 'Thailand's response has been fighting with us.'

Fighting between the two ASEAN members broke out on Friday and has left at least 13 soldiers and one Thai civilian dead, and about 60 people wounded on both sides.

Overnight the European Union said the clashes were 'very worrying.'

Late Wednesday Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongpakdi suggested Bangkok would like to resolve the conflict before the ASEAN summit.

The Bangkok Post newspaper reported that Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had said talks could start once Cambodia stopped shooting at Thailand.

Each side has blamed the other for the fighting.

On Wednesday, Thailand pulled out of ceasefire talks scheduled to take place in Phnom Penh after Cambodian media reported that Bangkok had only agreed to talks because it was losing.

Indonesia, as the current chair of ASEAN, has tried unsuccessfully to mediate between the two nations, and proposed putting observers along the contested border. The plan was welcomed by Cambodia, but rejected by Thailand.

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya was scheduled to meet his Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa in Jakarta on Thursday to discuss the issue further.

Cambodia said Wednesday that more than 31,000 of its citizens had fled the border region, while Thailand said a similar number of its civilians had been evacuated from their villages.

Thailand has blamed UNESCO for escalating the tensions with its decision in 2008 to list the 11th-century temple of Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site, despite Thai claims that a 4.6-square-kilometre area near the temple is still the subject of a five-decade border demarcation dispute.

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