Cambodia wants time to collect soldiers' bodies
Newspaper section: News
A senior Cambodian military officer has hammered out a ceasefire with Thai troops at Ta Muen Thom temple in Phanom Dong Rak district of Surin province.
Col Neak Vong, deputycommanderof Cambodia’s 402nd Brigade, centre, shakes hands with Thai soldiers after holding negotiations with Col Adul Boonthamcharoen, commander of the 26th Pararanger Military Regiment,on aceasefire atTaMuen Thomtemple in PhanomDong Rak district of Surin province yesterday. NOPPARATKINGKAEO
Col Neak Vong, deputy commander of Cambodia's 402nd Brigade, contacted Col Adul Boonthamcharoen, commander of the 26th Pararanger Military Regiment around 4 pm to seek a ceasefire at the temple ruins of Ta Muen Thom.
After the meeting, both sides agreed to stop fighting and Cambodian troops agreed to move away from an area near the temple ruins.
A Thai army source said Col Neak Vong gave as his reasons for the ceasefire the fact that he wanted to collect several bodies of Cambodian troops killed in gunfire exchanges with Thai troops during the past 10 days, from a forest opposite the temple.
The bodies have begun rotting and giving off a bad odour.
He also told the Thai side that the morale of Cambodian troops has been shaken following the deaths of their fellow soldiers and a shortage of food and weapons, added the source.
After the agreement, Thai soldiers erected ranger flags in orange and green in front of the temple to protect their sovereignty in the area.
A wooden fence was set up at the entrance of the temple, reinforced with barbed wire.
A source said the ceasefire agreement at the operational level was a good sign that the border conflict would end soon.
Cambodian Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat said yesterday that one Cambodian soldier was killed in fighting with Thailand yesterday morning.
The two sides exchanged automatic weapons fire overnight and before dawn yesterday round the Ta Kwai and Ta Muen temples, about 14 kilometres from Ta Muen Thom.
The Cambodian soldier was killed by shrapnel from an artillery round, he said.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday said proposals to set up a committee to handle the Preah Vihear temple issue at the World Heritage Committee meetings this month and in June will be submitted to cabinet for consideration tomorrow.
In his weekly television talk show, Mr Abhisit assured the public that state agencies would protect the country's sovereignty even after the House is dissolved this week.
The border situation was showing progress as Thai and Cambodian military authorities were in close contact to prevent the dispute from escalating, he said. Exchanges of heavy arms fire between troops from the two countries had taken place earlier.
But after two rounds of negotiations, troops were now clashing with light weapons only, he said.
Second Army commander Thawatchai Samutsakhon has asked his subordinates to exercise restraint.
Seven Thai troops have been killed and scores of soldiers wounded in the border clashes with Cambodian soldiers, said Lt Gen Thawatchai.
A source said two evacuees taking refuge at a shelter in Prasat district of Surin died after suffering from stress.
Ms Reya Saengtawan, 42, a native of Phanom Dong Rak district, died at the temporary shelter at Nikhom Prasat centre, and Mrs Thong Khantiwong, 76, another evacuee, was taken to a local hospital and died.
The Second Army's front operation centre in Surin said seven Thai soldiers have been killed and 120 others wounded since the border clashes erupted.
The fighting had also killed one civilian, injured seven others, and damaged 11 houses.