Newspaper section: News
Cambodian defence spokesman Chhum Socheat did not shed crocodile tears to win sympathy from the world when he talked to reporters during a recent press conference on the Thai-Cambodia border clashes.
It could be true that heavy losses suffered by Cambodia during the border clashes with Thailand brought him to tears, and not the heart-wrenching drama in the Thai soap opera Dok Som Si Thong, as army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd suggested. Col Sansern earlier said that Lt Gen Chhum Socheat might have been a bit too impressed by Reya, a popular and artificial female character in the Channel 3 soap opera, which can be seen in Cambodia.
A highly placed military source said that when Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon telephoned Gen Tea Banh to discuss the prospects of a ceasefire after the clashes had entered a second day, his Cambodian counterpart turned down the peace overtures.
Gen Tea Banh told Gen Prawit that Cambodian soldiers were met with too much of a ''heavy-handed'' response from Thai troops and that a ceasefire was still not possible, the source said.
''A lot of Cambodian soldiers have died. They suffered heavy losses.
''But they started the fight and Thai soldiers had to retaliate,'' 2nd Army chief Thawatchai Samutsakhon said.
''If they shell us, Thai troops will retaliate by launching even heavier shelling,'' Lt Gen Thawatchai said.
Border military sources have said that if the Cambodian side fires one artillery shell, Thai troops will retaliate with around five shells. ''We launch about 200-300 artillery shells each day [during the fighting],'' a source said.
During the past two months, since the Feb 4-7 clashes with Cambodia in Phu Makhua, near Preah Vihear, Thai troops have amassed plenty of artillery shells, multiple rocket launchers (MRLs), and radars in the area.
Gen Prawit, while on a visit to China this week, will hold talks to buy additional 130mm MRL systems and radars from China at a cost of 1.2 billion baht.
After heavy retaliatory shelling on April 26, a day of few skirmishes, Thai troops spotted Cambodians collecting a number of bodies of their dead colleagues.
Cambodia reported that eight of its soldiers were killed on Tuesday.
Cambodian army deputy commander Hun Manet, son of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, has reportedly moved back from his headquarters at O Smach opposite the Chong Jom border checkpoint in Surin's Kap Choeng district to 20 kilometres inland from the scene of the clashes.
Since the latest spate of fighting erupted, Cambodia suffered its worst losses during a battle near the Kap Choeng border on April 24 and 25, the source said. A deputy commander of Cambodia's Brigade 42, who was the son of a former Khmer Rouge military leader, was among those killed in the clashes, said a Thai intelligence report.
Cambodia and Cambodian soldiers have been dragged into a conflict not of their own choosing. Hun Sen wields complete control over them and he has already made the choice on their behalf, a Thai soldier said.
Thailand and Cambodia yesterday agreed to a ceasefire after one week of border clashes.