Sun, May 01, 2011
THAI and Cambodian troops exchanged fire on their disputed border for a ninth straight day on Saturday, both sides said, casting doubt on efforts to end the countries' bloodiest conflict in decades.
The latest hostilities at two ancient temples on their shared jungle frontier erupted just hours after Cambodia announced a second truce in as many days, although Bangkok denied knowledge of a new peace deal.
Each side has traded accusations of untrustworthiness in solving a dispute that has killed 16 people and displaced more than 85,000 civilians.
"Even though there is a recent ceasefire... Thailand still breached it," Cambodia's Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters in Phnom Penh on Saturday.
"It shows that we cannot trust our counterpart," he said in comments that echoed those made by Thai officials a day earlier.
The latest flare-up was confirmed by both countries, but while it was followed by a lull in fighting, frontline soldiers remained on alert.
"Clashes could happen at any time," Cambodian field commander Suos Sothea told AFP by telephone.
There were no reports of new deaths, although at least 10 Thai soldiers were injured in clashes on Friday night and Saturday morning, army sources in Thailand said.
Cambodia's defence ministry accused Thailand in a statement of using grenades and firing mortar rounds at Cambodian troops in the latest clashes.
The two neighbours have come under increasing international pressure to stop the violence.
A first attempted truce on Thursday, confirmed by the two countries, proved short-lived and Bangkok has contradicted Phnom Penh's latest claims, saying Friday's talks between commanders on the ground did not amount to a genuine breakthrough.
"We actually have talked at local officers' level which I hope will lead to a real ceasefire," said Thailand's government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn.
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 Thai-Cambodian frontier has never been fully demarcated, partly because it is littered with landmines left over from years of war in Cambodia.
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.
Seven Thai troops and eight Cambodian soldiers have died since the fighting began on April 22, and Bangkok has said a Thai civilian was also killed.