Thursday April 28, 2011
Thai troops in Cambodia - Source: Reuters
Thailand has dispatched troops to a disputed area on its border with Cambodia today after clashes erupted for the seventh day near two 12th-century Hindu temples, the Thai army spokesman said.
The reinforcement followed a night of shelling that killed a Thai soldier and wounded seven. Fighting ended after dawn but troops on both sides remained on high alert.
"We are putting more troops in the area preventively because there has been tension for several days now," said Colonel Prawit Hukaew, a regional army spokesman.
"But we remain firm that we will not attack first and we are responding to reinforcement by Cambodia."
Each side has blamed the other for starting new rounds of fighting. At least 15 people have been killed and more than 50,000 evacuated from their homes during clashes in the jungle of the Dangrek Mountains.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, in his first public comments on the conflict yesterday, called Thailand's premier a "thief" whose government committed "terrorism".
But he said he was willing to discuss the clashes in one-on-one talks with Thailand and planned to raise the issue with Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and other Southeast Asian leaders during a summit in Indonesia on May 7-8.
Thailand said it would welcome border talks within an existing bilateral framework, but only after fighting stopped. A meeting between the Thai and Cambodian defense ministers was cancelled today.
Sovereignty over the ancient, stone-walled Hindu temples, Preah Vihear, Ta Moan and Ta Krabey, and the jungle of the Dangrek Mountains surrounding them has been in dispute since the withdrawal of the French from Cambodia in the 1950s.
In Karb Cherng border village, which was damaged in the fighting, houses were abandoned and shops shuttered. Police patrolled the empty town for remnants of unexploded ordnance.
On a road nearby, eight Thai army tanks were seen moving into the mountains.