Sunday, 1 May 2011

New skirmishes on Thai-Cambodian border

via CAAI

Cambodian soldiers stand on a military truck as they travel past a check point near the Preah Vhear temple in Preah Vihear province, some 500km northwest of Phnom Penh

PHNOM PENH: Sporadic clashes broke out on the tense Thai-Cambodian border on Saturday, both sides said, casting doubt on peace efforts as the countries' bloodiest conflict in decades stretched into a ninth day.

The latest hostilities at two ancient temples on the disputed jungle frontier erupted just hours after Cambodia announced a second truce agreement in as many days, although Bangkok denied knowledge of a new deal.

"Even though there is a recent ceasefire agreement... Thailand still breached it," Cambodia's Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters in Phnom Penh.

"There were exchange of firing last night and this morning," he said. "it shows that we cannot trust our counterpart."

Thai army sources also confirmed early morning clashes.

Thailand said on Friday's peace talks between commanders from both sides did not amount to a genuine breakthrough in a dispute that has left 16 people dead and displaced more than 85,000 civilians.

"We actually have talked at local officers' level which I hope will lead to a real ceasefire," said Thailand's government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn.

Seven Thai troops and eight Cambodian soldiers have died since the clashes began on April 22, and Bangkok has said a Thai civilian has also been killed.

Hor Namhong returned Saturday from The Hague where he had submitted a request to the World Court to clarify a 1962 ruling about land around the ancient Preah Vihear temple -- an area that has inflamed tensions between the two neighbours.

"The request for the interpretation by the court is a way to resolve the problem peacefully," he said at Phnom Penh airport.

The court ruled more than four decades ago that the 900-year-old temple belonged to Cambodia, but both countries claim ownership of a 4.6-square-kilometre (1.8-square-mile) surrounding area.

Thailand said it had hired legal advisors and would fight the case.

The stone structure has been the focus of border tensions since it was granted UN World Heritage status in 2008 and 10 people died in hostilities between the neighbours there in February.

The current unrest is centred around two other contested temple complexes 150 kilometres (90 miles) west of Preah Vihear, although there was some fighting at the site itself on Tuesday.

The Thai-Cambodian frontier has never been fully demarcated, partly because it is littered with landmines left over from years of war in Cambodia.

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