Monday, 7 February 2011
HEAD OF REGIONAL BODY SEEKS ROLE IN CALLING BORDER TRUCE
Thailand and Cambodia should allow the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to help them form a temporary truce and calm tempers, said Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan.
His urgent message came as the two Asean member states traded fire on Friday and early yesterday, with casualties on both sides.
He said the deteriorating situation along the Thai-Cambodian border is undermining confidence in Asean and affecting economic recovery, tourism and investment prospects in the region.
"The situation has escalated into open conflict, which will affect our economic development, confidence in our region, tourism and prospects for foreign investment, which have just started picking up in light of the global economic recovery," said Mr Surin, former foreign minister.
"I am deeply concerned about the serious situation on the border between Thailand and Cambodia. This violent conflict must be brought under control and returned to the negotiating table as soon as possible."
The violence started with gunfire and artillery duels mid-afternoon on Friday near the long-disputed site of the ancient Preah Vihear temple.
While the International Court of Justice decided in Cambodia's favour in 1962, sovereignty over the areas adjacent to the temple have remained disputed.
"I have been in touch with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong, and the Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, and I have appealed for calm and restraint on both sides," Mr Surin said.
"I have also expressed my fervent desire to see both sides return to the negotiating table as soon as possible." Diplomatic sources reveal that Mr Surin's wishes could materialise soon as Indonesia, the current Asean chair, is stepping up its efforts to help the two sides arrive at a temporary solution. It wants the two sides to resume talks on border demarcation and restoring peace.
"I understand that both sides now welcome some form of mediation by the Asean leadership," said Mr Surin, without elaborating.
Artillery shelling has destroyed part of the headquarters complex of Phra Viharn National Park, which adjoins the disputed area around Preah Vihear temple, and the park has been closed to the public until further notice. has been closed indefinitely because of the fighting between Thai and Cambodian soldiers.
National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department chief Sunant Aroonnopparat said on Monday that artillery rounds that landed inside the park compound, causing heavy damage to the office building and equipment, including computers.
The roofs of the houses of the park staff had been demolished. The damage was initially estimated at 400,000-500,000 baht, he said.
All nine park officials had evacuated to Kantharalak. Soldiers from the 2nd Army had been deployed to take positions inside the park.
The park officials left eight or nine guns at the office. They would today seek permission from soldiers to go back their to pick the weapons, Mr Sunant said.
The park covers an area of 81,250 rai, or 130 square kilometres, on the border with Cambodia.
Thai and Cambodian troops started shooting at each other, again, on Feb 4. The fighting has continued.
February 7, 2011
MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Monday disclosed that consultations are ongoing among the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on how the regional organization could help resolve the conflict between Thailand and Cambodia.
Meanwhile, ASEAN Secretary-General Dr. Surin Pitsuwan told Thailand and Cambodia that the fighting on their borders is undermining confidence in ASEAN and affecting economic recovery, tourism and investment prospect in the region.
The violent conflict started with a gun fire and artillery duels last Friday near the long disputed site of an ancient Hindu Temple, Preah Vihear.
While the International Court of Justice decided in favor of Cambodia in 1962, the areas adjacent to the Temple remain under dispute.
“I am deeply concerned about the serious situation on the border between Thailand and Cambodia,” the AESAN secretary-general said in a statement issued over the weekend.
“This violent conflict must be brought under control and the two parties must return to the negotiating table soonest,” Surin said.
He revealed that he has been in touch with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong and Thailand Foreign Minister, Kasit Piramya and appealed for calm and maximum restraint on both sides.
Surin said he expressed his “fervent desire to see both sides in a positive exchange as soon as possible.”
By Shawn W Crispin
BANGKOK - Clashes between Thai and Cambodian troops represent the heaviest armed exchanges since border tensions first erupted in 2008 and threaten to spiral into a wider conflict as both sides incur casualties and extend their positions beyond the original 4.6 kilometer border area in dispute. Fighting entered a fourth day on Monday, with no ceasefire in sight.
Both sides have claimed the other fired first and that return salvos were launched in self-defense. The clashes were presaged by a ratcheting in tensions. Bangkok had earlier demanded Phnom Penh remove a marker claiming ownership of a patch of the contested territory and later insisted that a Buddhist temple in the area stop flying the Cambodian flag.
Bangkok's assertiveness coincided with a Cambodian court decision last week to sentence on espionage charges two Thai activists to lengthy jail terms for entering a border area claimed by Cambodia. Meanwhile, anti-government protests in Bangkok have called on Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to step down for his alleged mishandling of border issues.
Bilateral relations hit a nadir in 2009 after Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen invited exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who the Thai government has accused of orchestrating and financing street violence, to serve as an economic adviser to his government. Hun Sen has also provided safe haven to Thaksin-aligned protesters who Bangkok has accused of terrorism and other charges. Nonetheless, government relations were on a warming trend until Phnom Penh arrested seven Thais, including a parliamentarian, on contested turf in January.
Despite the international dimension, the conflict is being driven largely by Thai domestic politics. Because Abhisit did not give the order to open fire, some see the armed exchanges and immediate breakdown of a ceasefire declared on Saturday as yet another indication that he lacks command control over the military. The hostilities and protests come at a time some believe Thailand's top military brass seek a national security-related pretense to stall Abhisit's early election plan.
Abhisit insinuated recently he may dissolve parliament and call new polls as early as April, eight months earlier than he is constitutionally required. The current military leadership, including army commander General Prayuth Chan-ocha, would likely be sidelined quickly should the opposition Puea Thai party win and form a new government. Puea Thai takes its marching orders from Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 military putsch.
The opposition holds Prayuth, then the army's deputy commander, as chiefly responsible for the killing of scores of its aligned United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) protesters during armed street clashes last April and May. A Puea Thai-led government would likely launch new investigations, with a focus on Prayuth's, his top level military allies and Abhisit's alleged roles in the killings. Current probes into the violence have been slow-moving.
Under those pressures, the once coherent storylines that have defined Thailand's six-year-old political conflict are fast fragmenting as establishment forces once united against Thaksin now compete to steer the country's future political direction. That's most visibly apparent with the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protest group, whose once potent street protests ushered Thaksin's 2006 military ouster and the collapse of two successive Thaksin-aligned governments in 2008 by occupying Government House and Bangkok's international airports.
Previously supportive of Abhisit and the Democrat Party's rule, the PAD has in recent weeks mobilized around the notion that his government has ceded sovereignty of contested territory, including the symbolic Preah Viharn temple, to Cambodia. The street protest is notable for its lack of anti-Thaksin propaganda and defense of the monarchy themes, both pivotal to the yellow-garbed movement's previous ability to draw large middle class crowds.
Until the border clashes, the PAD's appeals to nationalism vis-a-vis Cambodia has failed to galvanize much enthusiasm, with crowds gauged by this correspondent on different evenings hovering between 2,000-4,000 supporters. That's largely because the PAD's current incarnation is not representative of the same unified establishment forces - including Abhisit's now ruling Democrat Party - that it was previously.
One government source notes that the PAD's protest and threats of stirring wider instability have coincided with a recent court ruling against 82 PAD guards, who were handed down prison sentences for their roles in raiding and shutting down a state television station's offices. The official contends that the PAD has played the nationalism card to bolster its relevance while the case against its leaders for occupying Bangkok's airports in 2008 is still pending.
The bigger question for stability surrounds the status of the PAD's ties with the military and monarchy. Once viewed as a front for pro-royalist, anti-Thaksin forces - including inside the armed forces and royal advisory Privy Council - those perceptions pivoted with the April 2009 assassination attempt by heavily-armed assailants against PAD co-leader and media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul.
While nobody has yet been prosecuted for the attack, police issued warrants for at least four soldiers, including from the army's Special Warfare Command.
Sondhi has never publicly accused Thaksin or renegade UDD-aligned soldiers for ordering the attack. A US Embassy cable from November 2008, released by WikiLeaks, quoted an adviser to Queen Sirikit saying that the palace was "highly irritated by the PAD's occupation of Government House and other disruptions caused by the anti-government group".
Still, some have speculated that the military has swung back towards the PAD with the transition from outgoing army commander General Anupong to new chief Prayuth as a way to pressure Abhisit out of his early election plan. With the reappearance of the PAD on Bangkok's streets, this time as ultra-nationalists in defense of Thai territory, local newspapers have been awash in unexplained coup rumors. (T-shirts for sale at the PAD's protest advertise for a "civil-military coup".)
The foil to that reconvergence has been the simultaneous overtures the PAD and its allied Thai Patriots Network have made to the UDD to join protest forces against Abhisit. As the two protest groups flirt with what still seems an unlikely merger, it once again underscores how Thailand's conflict is more about personality than ideology.
That leaves Abhisit to convince Prayuth that early polls are a better bet than backing the PAD and fomenting instability on the border. According to a source familiar with the situation, the Democrats recently hired an international election polling firm to gauge its election chances. In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Abhisit cited an unnamed poll that he said showed the Democrats were the popular frontrunners for new elections.
An election win would lessen Abhisit's reliance on the military, which many believe cobbled together his coalitions, and quiet opposition charges that his administration lacks democratic legitimacy because his party placed second, not first, at the 2007 polls. Until then, however, expect more bombshells on the border and rally cries from the streets.
Shawn W Crispin is Asia Times Online's Southeast Asia Editor.
Cambodia Stands to Keep Its flag Flied
Monday, 07 February 2011 08:35 By Soy Sophea
Phnom Penh: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday reiterated that Cambodia could not remove Cambodia’s national flag at Keo Sikha Kirisvara pagoda as Thailand demanded.
Addressing to graduated students in Phnom Penh, PM Hun Sen said that the flag was completely in Cambodian territory according the International Court of Justice (ICJ) verdict dated June 15, 1962.
“We are defending our territory, we don’t want any piece of Thailand,” he said. “Although Thailand gives us [Cambodia] a piece of land, we don’t want it, and via versa.”
Cambodia and Thailand have exchanged gun fire for four day since Feb 4, 2011.
However, Cambodian Premier called on the intervention of United Nations Security Council to put an end to a 30-month-military standoff between the two nations after UN’ World Heritage Commission conclude the 11th century temple to the world heritage site in July 7, 2008. And he said that he was ready to send his foreign affair minister to the UNSC.
Cambodia To Send FM Minister to UNSC
Monday, 07 February 2011 03:51 By Soy Sophea
Phnom Penh: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday said that he would send his foreign affair minister to United Nations Security Council for explaining the aggression of Thailand to its territory near a UN world heritage site.
Addressing to graduated students in Phnom Penh, PM said that he did care whether Thailand made any actions to the UNSC or not, adding that Cambodia had filed a complaint to the UN body.
Cambodia late Sunday sent a letter to head of UNSC Maria urging to hold an urgent meeting the council so as to stop the Thailand’s aggression, adding the action of Thailand damaged the peace and stability in the region.
Sunday night, Cambodia and Thailand exchanged gun fire, leaving more wounded as many as evacuated.
So far, there is no report of causalities from both side.
The International Community Must Intervene to Help Cambodia Safe-guard Preah Vihear Temple in the Wake of Thai Attacks
Editorial by Ek Madra
Now, more than ever, the international community must stand up, take heed of the perils facing Cambodia’s Preah Vihear temple at the hands of the Thai army. The international committee has a moral and legal obligation to undertake this intervention as it had jointly decided to inscribe the 900-year old monument as a World Heritage site. This is because, since the inscription of the temple in July 07th 2008 during the World Heritage Council meeting at Quebec, Canada, Thai forces had staged repeated attacks in and around the vicinity of the world heritage, inflicting irreparable damage to the temple and its surroundings.
Despite numerous ceasefire agreements and dialogue, Cambodia’s Preah Vihear temple continues to be the focal target for Thai forces and recalcitrant politicians to divert attention of their people away from their domestic political issues.
Thai armed forces attempts to invade Cambodia and forcibly evict her citizens from its own territory. This is tantamount to a scorched earth policy as Thai army firing has been indiscriminate and deliberate, probably aimed at discouraging the committee from discussing further the development of the Preah Vihear temple and its vicinity in line with the inscription of the said temple to the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Evidently, Thai soldiers had again, on Friday and Saturday, launched artillery bombardment deep into Cambodia’s territory at three locations, all of which are within the vicinity of the Temple. Stern preventive measures must be taken now without delay to ensure that Thai troops respect the international cultural heritage status bestowed on the Preah Vihear temple.
The protection and safe guarding of the temple benefits not only Cambodia but also its feuding neighbor Thailand which has defined the International Court of Justice decision which clearly warded the temple and its surroundings to Cambodia in1962. Thailand stands to benefit from a peaceful and safe Preah Vihear temple in all aspects – development of tourism and economic activities as well as people to people exchange. Thus, it is very important that the international community moves immediately to assist Cambodia to ensure the full and complete preservation of the temple, one which is free from damages caused by armed conflict.
I, therefore, called on the international community to pay close attention to the current armed clashes provoked by Thais to ensure that the Temple will never ever be damaged again by Thai gunfire. Thus the World Heritage Committee should call on all concerned parties to set up an ADHOC committee to work with Cambodia and Thailand to make sure that the Temple will no longer be part of the battle ground between the two Asian nations.
I am deeply shocked again after hearing that the latest Thai attacks had caused many serious damages to the Temple of Preah Vihear as stated by Cambodia’s –ministry of foreign affairs.
Cambodia Has Nothing to Gain in Border Flare-up. Only Thais Gain!
Phnom Penh, February 7, 2011 AKP –
Army commander Prayuth Chan-ocha said that fresh violence, after Friday and Saturday’s clash, is likely to affect the World Heritage Committee’s meeting called for June to discuss the development plan for the Preah Vihear temple, which is close to where the clashes occurred.
Foreign Minister Kasit said the ministry will send a letter to Unesco and its member countries today calling on them to suspend any work involving the Thai-Cambodian border because any actions could intensify the conflict. Both are excerpts from the Bangkok Post website.
Both these statements are crystal clear evidence that the Thai army and Government had launched a premeditated, carefully orchestrated first strike against Cambodia, firing heavy weaponry before moving some 1.6 kms into sovereign Cambodian territory of Preah Vihear.
The objectives are multi pronged. First and foremost, the statement by the yellow shirted PAD which was quoted by the same paper as claiming that the military clash took place because the government did not comply with the yellow-shirt people group’s demands.
These demands being the ultimatum to the Abhisit led Thai government to take any measures deemed necessary to secure the release of two imprisoned Thai spies in Cambodia and for the MOU signed between Cambodia and Thailand to be cancelled.
Thus, the armed forces, which have for the most part of the week had denied somewhat unconvincingly that they would not stage a coup, a possibility given the fact that the deadline for Abhisit to secure the release of the two Thai spies expired on Saturday and the PAD had threatened a mammoth march/demonstration which could have been the impetus for a coup to put an end to the political instability brought about by a previous military coup.
The second reason is plausibly as follows: Abhisit had to deflect the PAD and the general public’s attention, including the Red Shirts who have been slowly finding their voices back and are also mounting pressure on Abhisit on several fronts – politically, legally through illegal activities and corruption related charges.
Thus, the possible way to divert the general public’s attention from the increasing and mounting two pronged threat to the Abhisit led Government is to stir up nationalism and patriotism. The following statement, attributed to Prime Minister Abhisit and quoted by the Bangkok Post on Saturday says it all and speaks volumes for this internal squabble leading to border clash to be a fact rather than a theory: “He (Abhisit) called on Thai people to support the armed forces in protecting the country’s sovereignty,” after meeting of heads of security and foreign affairs agencies held earlier (Saturday) at Government House to discuss the border clash.
Analysts and political commentators and observers, Cambodian and Thais included, are of the opinion that internal political squabbles should never corner the majority of the Thai government’s time. This border dispute is an issue that never should have erupted to the point it is at.
However, continued internal political problems have all the Thai government’s attention in the wrong places when the defense and safe keeping of the country should be first, welfare of it’s citizens next and the Thai Government can do this by not invading its smaller neighbor! The fighting on Friday and Saturday, a premeditated and unprovoked action by the Thai armed forces is a shameful display of self-serving greed.
Abhisit’s statement that Thai soldiers had to protect the sovereignty of Thailand and that Thailand has never invaded its neighbor’s territory, is farcical, nonsensical and absolutely rubbish. Why is that so? The reasons given above are sufficient evidence to this Thai aggression which it blames on its smaller and weaker neighbor!
My view is the Thai army started shooting first. Why you ask? I think there are yellow shirt supporters in army uniform acting on orders from the Yellow leaders to start a problem. It would make sense as they hold the ‘Big demo’ to decide on how to overthrow the current government and have ‘their’ war! One wonder’s if PM Abhisit has taken their bait?
Why indeed would Cambodia initiate war with Thailand? After all Thailand is much bigger in every aspect, including bullying its smaller neighbors. It has modern jet fighters and an air force while Cambodian has none. Its armed forces are well equipped while Cambodia’s army is said to be a bunch of rag-tag soldiers. Thailand’s economic prowess and strengths are much larger than Cambodia. It could probably effort a short war with Cambodia. Cambodia cant as it has more important things to do.
On the other hand, Cambodia has what Thailand wishes to have. The Abhisit led Thailand craves for political stability which has been extinct in the past half a decade. Cambodia has had political and security stability in the past 12 years. Its economy is growing. Its tourism market is growing while that of Thailand falters.
Cambodia’s Premier Hun Sen enjoys wide spread popularity while Thai premier Abhisit is constantly under threat from his own party, the judiciary, his once upon a time ally, the PAD, and the Red Shirts.
The Thai premier had indicated that this year would be eventful with the general elections to be held and renewed political unrest to overcome. He added there was a pressing need for the government to sustain the rule of law and maintain political stability to keep the country from becoming a “failed state”.
Thus, I ask again, what better to prevent being labeled as a failed state than to initiate a fight with its neighbor Cambodia? A fight to Annex by force what it failed to do legally 49 years ago at the Hague?
What better way to do this than for Thailand to demand its smaller neighbor to bring down her flag flying over its property located on her sovereign territory and built some 13 years ago?
The eruption on Friday, according to sources, is namely because the Thai military continued to press the Cambodians hard to lower their flag-with some reports saying the Thais attempted to bring in heavy equipment to tear down a modern pagoda built on some area not known to be disputed.
Friday and Saturdays clash of artillery and rocket grenades took place as Thailand and Cambodia are celebrating their 60th year relationship this year, and the Thai foreign minister’ Kasit, was in Cambodia to inject life into the joint border dispute resolution units-to take the situation out of the sphere of internal national politics.
Relations had soured in recent weeks.
As some spies sent into Cambodia by the Thai prime minister, Abhisit, are tried and some allowed to leave Cambodia, the Thai Army stepped in!
The Thai general in charge of the Thai E-Sarn region that borders Cambodia-started to make noise about a Cambodian tablet and flags that have been there for years and years-that they must be torn down-probably, because of internal politics of Thailand with the nationalist yellow shirts urging the Thai military to take a hard line position.
Bangkok Post reported that the Cambodian removal of the tablet was a “Smashing Success” with picture of the smashed Cambodia tablets being featured prominently in the Thai media. Then the Thai military announced a military exercise near the disputed border.
The situation verged on clashes before. Again-the Thai second army region general-that looks after the Thai border with Cambodia-had been making many statements to the press in recent weeks, including demanding the removal of the mentioned Cambodian tablet. The Cambodians agreed to remove it as a sign of goodwill, not as a sign of weakness or provocation.
Then Bangkok demanded the flag be removed.
The Cambodians subsequently said the removal of the flag tantamount to war. This is precisely what the Thais were hoping to initiate! Then the Thai said the new pagoda must be torn down. Then the Thais went to plant a flag, said to be bigger and taller than Cambodian flag. And, Thailand starts its invasion to divert attention away from the mounting threat to its rule in Bangkok and in the process muzzle its opponents.
Now, returning to the following:
Army commander Prayuth Chan-ocha said that fresh violence, after Friday and Saturday’s clash, is likely to affect the World Heritage Committee’s meeting called for June to discuss the development plan for the Preah Vihear temple, which is close to where the clash occurred.
Foreign Minister Kasit said the ministry will send a letter to Unesco and its member countries today calling on them to suspend any work involving the Thai-Cambodian border because any actions could intensify the conflict. Both are excerpts from the Bangkok Post website.
Is this another gambit by the Thais to derail Cambodia’s efforts to develop Preah Vihear after it was inscribed as a World Heritage site in July 2008? It is public knowledge that the WHC will examine Cambodia’s efforts to develop and transform the Preah Vihear Temple and its vicinity into a global eco and cultural tourism site.
What better way to derail this effort than to show the world and the WHC that Thailand is able to blackmail, threaten and bully the WHC, effectively meaning the international community, to suspend work or reconsider their decision to inscribe the Preah Vihear Temple as a world heritage site?
The onus is on Cambodia to show credibility and capability to manage Preah Vihear Temple and what better way for this to be thwarted than raw Thai aggression?
Friday and Saturday’s deadly clash follows a pattern by the Thais since Preah Vihear temple was inscribed as a world heritage site as barely a week after the inscription, the Thai army had invaded Cambodia at the tenacious border, causing destruction to the 900 years old temple, destroying villages and markets well inside Cambodian territory as identified and judged by non other than the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
At the Chulalongkorn University, academics got together to discuss the Thai- Cambodia situation and they said, quote: “Abhisit and the military must not let the internal politics of Thailand to dictate the relationship between the two countries, but let the border dispute resolution bodies do their work.”
Wise words indeed. But would Premier Abhisit listen or has be pushed over the edge by the yellow shirt ultra nationalists who are itching for a fight to enable their new proxies to be control of Bangkok since Abhisit is now viewed with suspicion and as a renegade by the same people who helped put him there!
By T. Mohan, a long term political analyst and observer in Cambodia
(The comments are solely the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Royal Government of Cambodia.)
NA Vice President Backs Home
Phnom Penh, February 7, 2011 AKP – A high-level delegation of the National Assembly of Cambodia headed by its Vice-President H.E. Nguon Nhel returned home on Feb. 5, after attending the Inter-Parliamentary Conference on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (CIDEC) held from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3 in Quebec, Canada.
The conference was attended by 250 participants from 29 countries across the world.
The conference was aimed to review the last five-year results and also urged the French-speaking countries not to discriminate, but to respect the diversity of cultures. –AKP
By LIM Nary
Japanese Aid to Boost Scientific Education in Cambodia
Phnom Penh, February 7, 2011 AKP – The Government of Japan donated an amount of US$255,654 to promote Cambodia’s education sector.
The grant contracts were signed here last Friday between Japanese Ambassador to Cambodia H.E. Kuroki Masafumi and the representatives of the recipient organizations.
According to the Japanese ambassador, the financial assistance was given through Japan’s economic cooperation framework, the Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (“KUSANONE” Grant).
The assistance focuses on the construction of science laboratories at Siem Reap Provincial Teacher Training College and at Battambang Provincial Teacher Training Center, and of a school building at Koh Krasaing primary school in Bakan district of Pursat province.
“The construction of the scientific laboratory facilities plays a vital role to enrich scientific understanding of some 1,000 teachers-to-be at the two pedagogy and teacher training centers who will be transferring the acquired knowledge to approximately 400,000 Cambodian students in the future. As for the school building construction, it will contribute more learning access for Cambodian students,” added H.E. Masafumi Kuroki.
Siem Reap Provincial Teacher Training College Director Leav Ora said that the assistance is very meaningful in terms of advancing the quality and effectiveness of scientific teaching and learning, thus improving Cambodian human resource.
The financial assistance makes the Government of Japan’s development aid to Cambodia from 1992 to 2009 increase to US$1.8 billion. –AKP
By MOM Chan Dara Soleil
Irrigation Construction Work in Chhlong District Is Nearing Completion
Phnom Penh, February 7, 2011 AKP – The work of the irrigation construction in Chhlong district, Kratie province, with a total cost of around US$3.6 million funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), is nearing completion this year, according to a provincial agriculture official.
When completed, the irrigation project is able to provide water in the first phase on a cultivated area of over 7,000 hectares.
The project will help the local farmers promote rice production and food crop in dry season.
Other irrigation construction sub-project in the district has achieved 95 percent, he said.
Farmers in Kratie province try hard in planting rice in dry season this year because of the higher price of rice in the market. –AKP
By THOU Peou
Cambodia To Host International Hockey Competition Later This Month
Phnom Penh, February 7, 2011 AKP – Cambodia will host the 1st International Hockey Competition in Phnom Penh on Feb. 27.
H.E. Vath Chamroeun, secretary general of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC), told reporters last week that five countries will join the event including Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, Pakistan and Cambodia.
The competition is aimed to further consolidate and strengthen the ties of friendship between Cambodia and other countries, he added. –AKP
Cambodia Requests UNSC To Convene Urgent Meeting to Stop Thailand’s Aggression
Phnom Penh, February 7, 2011 AKP – Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, has addressed a letter to the President of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Mrs. Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, requesting her to convene an urgent meeting of the UNSC so as to stop Thailand’s aggression.
The following is the full letter dated Feb. 6:
With reference my Foreign Minister’s letter dated 5 February 2011 to Your Excellency, I wish to draw your attention to the worsening of the situation at the border between the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Kingdom of Thailand as follows:
Once again, despite negotiation by the field commanders of both sides for a cease fire, on 6 February 2011, at 18:20, Thai armed forces launched a full scale armed aggression against Cambodia, using heavy sophisticated weapons including many 105, 120, 130 155 artillery shells which were fired into the TEMPLE OF PREAH VIHEAR, a World Heritage, the region of TASEM, VEAL INTRY and PHNOM TRAP hill and others. All these areas are well inside Cambodian territory. Thai artillery shells have landed as far as approximately 20 km inside Cambodian territory.
While I write this letter to Your Excellency, Thai armed forces still continue firing of heavy weapons into Cambodian territory.
This fresh onslaught by Thai armed forces has resulted in more human casualties and damages to the TEMPLE OF PREAH VIHEAR as well as other properties.
The repeated acts of aggression against Cambodia by Thailand violate the following legal instruments:
1. Articles 2.3, 2.4 and 94.1 of the United Nations’ Charter.
2. The Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) in Southeast Asia, Article 2, in which Cambodia and Thailand are parties, provides for:
• Mutual respect for the independence, sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity and national identity of all nations.
• Settlement of differences and disputes by peaceful means.
• Renunciation of the threat or use of force.
3. The Agreement Concerning the Sovereignty, Independence, Territorial Integrity and Inviolability, Neutrality and National Unity of Cambodia, Article 2.2.c, 2.2.d, of the Paris Peace Accord in 1991.
Considering this recent extremely grave aggressions by Thailand, which has gravely threatened peace and stability in the region, I earnestly request Your Excellency to convene an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council so as to stop Thailand’s aggression. I would also highly appreciate it if Your Excellency could circulate this letter to all members of the United Nations Security Council as an official document.
Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration and respect.”
Thai Army Shelled and Destroyed Part of Cambodia’s Preah Vihear Temple
Phnom Penh, February 7, 2011 AKP – Cambodia’s military told the Press and Quick Reaction Unit (PRU) of the Office of the Council of Ministers on Sunday that Thai army resumed heavy shelling on Cambodia’s troops around 6:40 p.m.
“A wing of our Preah Vihear Temple has collapsed as a direct result of the Thai artillery bombardment,” said a Cambodian military commander based near the 900-year-old Temple.
“The Thai army began shooting at us first, we are taking self-defense and retaliatory measures, now,” he said, stressing that the Thais had not honored the ceasefire of Saturday.
The commander also said that the Thai army also used gas shell as they fired 130 mm artillery rounds at Cambodian soldiers.
(Reporting by Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Office of the Council of Ministers)
EK T. MADRA
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Indonesian Foreign Minister To Pay Visit to Cambodia Soon
Phnom Penh, February 7, 2011 AKP – Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, Dr. R.M. Marty M. Natalegawa, will pay a one-day visit to Cambodia soon, said a press release of the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation issued last Saturday.
During his stay in Phnom Penh, Dr. R.M. Natalegawa, as Chairman of ASEAN, will hold a bilateral talk with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation H.E. Hor Namhong, the press release indicated. –AKP
BANGKOK, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- A joint commission on border demarcation between Thailand and Cambodia plans to meet later this month as border tension has intensified, a senior Thai official said on Monday.
The Thai-Cambodian Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary (JBC), led by senior government officials of both countries, is scheduled to meet in the last week of February, Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to Thai foreign minister told a local television.
Chavanond did not give a specific date in the interview.
The JBC together with the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by Thailand and Cambodia in 2000 is the key framework for settling the two countries' disputed border areas. The meeting will be taking place as Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged heavy-gun firing in the past four days, causing some casualties on both sides.
In a related development, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, as the current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), is scheduled to arrive in Bangkok on Tuesday, Feb. 8.
Chavanond said that Thailand will brief the Indonesian minister on the current situation on its border disputes with Cambodia, but is not seeking any mediation by ASEAN.
Editor: Zhang Xiang
By South-East Asia correspondent Zoe Daniel
A local tourist has been killed at a disputed border temple where there has been fighting between Thai and Cambodian troops over the past four days.
The Cambodian government says the World Heritage ruin has been extensively damaged after being hit by around 100 shells which it says came from Thai troops.
The Thai military has accused the Cambodian army of firing the first shots in the skirmish, which began on Friday.
However, Cambodia claims the Thai soldiers provoked them by moving into an agreed demilitarised zone around the temple.
The temple has been declared Cambodian, but its ownership and the demarcation of the border around it are disputed by Thai nationalists.
A spokeswoman for Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd says both sides should respect a ceasefire agreement and exercise maximum restraint.
She says Australia continues to urge Thailand and Cambodia to resolve the dispute peacefully through dialogue and to take all necessary steps to reduce tensions and avoid further conflict.The Cambodian tourist was apparently killed while photographing the disputed Preah Vihear Temple on the Cambodian side of the border.
By Suchat Sritama
Both Bangkok Airways and Thai AirAsia are still running their scheduled flights between Thailand and Cambodia despite the border dispute.
Although Thai and Cambodian troops clashed for the fourth day along the Thai border city in Si Sa Ket, Bangkok Airways continues operating the flights between Bangkok and Phnom Penh and Siem Reap as usual, while Thai AirAsia maintains its daily service.
A spokeperson of Bangkok Airways said that the airline maintains its service for the Bangkok-Phnom Penh route with five flights a day and the Bangkok-Siem Reap route with four flights per day.
PHNOM PENH, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Monday that Cambodia will ask the United Nations to sent forces to "a buffer zone" at disputed border area in order to avoid further clashes between Cambodian and Thai troops.
Hun Sen made the remarks at the graduation ceremony of Norton University. "We have sent forces to Sudan, to Chad, to Central Africa, now we ask the United Nations' forces to be the 'buffer zone' for us in order to avoid fighting."
The clashes between Cambodian and Thai troops have already caused many seriously damages to the temple of Preah Vihear, a World Heritage, according to the report from Cambodian military stationed at the border area.
Cambodian and Thai troops have exchanged fire for five times since Feb. 4, and both sides have used heavy weapons including rockets, machine guns, mortars and artillery.
The issue of Preah Vihear temple has been an age-old dispute. Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple was enlisted as World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008. Just a week after the enlistment, Cambodia and Thailand have had border conflict due to Thai claim of the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the temple, triggering a military build-up along the border.
Editor: Zhang Xiang
BANGKOK, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- Thai government hoped to have peace talk with Phnom Penh, said Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban on Monday after the third round of exchanging fire along the Thai-Cambodian disputed border.
Suthep, who oversees security affair, said Thai government always resorted to peaceful means to solve the border conflict, adding that Thai government is ready for negotiation table. It actually depends on its Cambodian counterpart of when it is ready to have peace talk with Bangkok, local media Matichon online reported Suthep's remarks.
Thai and Cambodian troops on Monday morning began exchanging fire along the disputed border.
Reports said heavy artillery and small arms fire could be heard continually in Thai border province of Si Sa Ket's Kantharalak district, and local people took refuge in temporary shelters.
Suthep said he still hopes that the situation is still negotiable without intervention from any third party.
Meanwhile, government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said on Monday that Thailand is ready and willing to explain its position in the border conflict with Cambodia to the United Nations Security Council, Bangkok Post online reported.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen reportedly has asked the UN to intervene in the Thai-Cambodian conflict.
Panitan said that Thailand had previously explained the situation with Cambodia to the UN Security Council and would send additional explanations to the council if Cambodia repeated its complaint.
Panitan said the agenda of the council depend on the decisions of its permanent members and non-permanent members. All the members must agree with the agenda first, adding that Thailand has briefed its representatives. The council may reach a resolution, but the process is complicated and permanent member countries have the right to veto a resolution.
"At present, there are the issues in Egypt and Tunisia. The issue of Thailand and Cambodia must follow the procedures. If there is a complaint, we are ready to explain. That is it," Bangkok Post quoted Panitan as saying.
The clashes between Cambodia and Thailand troops have already caused many seriously damages to the temple of Preah Vihear, a World Heritage, according to the report from Cambodian military stationed at the border area.
The border between Thailand and Cambodia has never been completely demarcated and the issue of Preah Vihear temple has been an age-old dispute.
Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple was enlisted as World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008. Just a week after the enlistment, Cambodia and Thailand have had border conflict due to Thai claim of the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the temple, triggering a military build-up along the border, and periodic clashes between Cambodian and Thai soldiers have resulted in the deaths of troops on both sides.
Editor: Zhang Xiang
Troops exchange fire for fourth straight day over disputed area surrounding ancient Hindu temple.
07 Feb 2011
The ongoing clashes have left at least five people, including a villager, dead [AFP]
Clashes between Thai and Cambodian troops over a disputed area surrounding a 900-year-old Hindu temple have continued for a fourth day across the frontier between the two countries.
Shelling and machine gunfire echoed around the contested area on Monday around the ancient Preah Vihear temple claimed by both Southeast Asian neighbours, witnesses said.
Meanwhile, Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, has called for "maximum restraint" to cease the hostilities, which have already left at least five people dead.
These were the most deadly clashes since Preah Vihear was granted UN World Heritage status in July 2008, a move that sparked sporadic skirmishes between the neighbours.
The temple, which is surrounded by disputed territory, was damaged on Sunday by Thai artillery fire, according to Cambodia, which said one wing of the building had "collapsed" as a result.
Thai officials, however, dismissed Cambodia's account as propaganda. The true extent of damage is unknown.
Phay Siphan, a Cambodian government spokesman, said skirmishes began again early on Monday after halting at around midnight.
The country urged the UN security council to intervene in the fighting, with prime minister Hun Sen accusing Thailand of "repeated acts of aggression".
But Thailand played down the reports of fresh fighting, with a military source near the border describing the incident as a "misunderstanding", involving only small arms fire.
Ban Ki-moon said on Sunday that he was "deeply concerned" about the cross-border fighting.
"The secretary-general appeals to both sides to put in place an effective arrangement for cessation of hostilities and to exercise maximum restraint," his office said in a statement.
On Sunday, Wayne Hay, an Al Jazeera correspondent at the Thai-Cambodia border, reported seeing artillery fire streaming across the night sky, as well as ambulances heading towards the disputed area.
Although sporadic clashes in the area are not unusual, it is rare for the two sides to fight over consecutive days.
On Friday, there was intense two-hour fighting between the neighbouring forces, which left soldiers and a villager killed. On Saturday, troops fought with rocket-propelled grenades and guns, prompting residents to flee the area.
Thailand and Cambodia both accuse the other of starting the ongoing clashes.
The temple, known as Preah Vihear in Cambodia and Khao Phra Viharn in Thailand, sits on land that forms a natural border and has been a source of tension for generations.
The International Court of Justice awarded it to Cambodia in 1962 but the ruling did not determine the ownership of the scrub next to the ruins, leaving considerable scope for disagreement.
Published: Feb. 6, 2011
NEW YORK, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Deadly military border clashes between Thailand and Cambodia should cease and be replaced by negotiations, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Sunday.
The hostilities, relating to mutual claims over the 11th century Preah Vihear Hindu temple along the border between the Southeast Asian neighbors, escalated last Friday with gunfire between the two sides, with each country accusing the other of starting the fighting.
The temple was awarded in 1962 to Cambodia by the International Court of Justice.
A Ban spokesman said the secretary-general appealed to both sides to cease hostilities and continue efforts to finding a lasting solution in "a spirit of dialogue and good neighborly relations," U.N. News reported.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, accusing Thailand of aggression, Sunday urged the U.N. Security Council to urgently convene a meeting even as shelling continued, The New York Times reported.
The report said Cambodian soldiers were preparing to go to the Preah Vihear temple with their government claiming the shelling had damaged part of the Hindu temple. The Times report said at least two people have died in the latest fighting and several more have been injured.
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, whose government is under pressure from the so-called Yellow Shirts over the issue, said the border issue can be solved at the bilateral level, Thai News Agency reported. The Southeast Asian Nations regional grouping reportedly has offered to mediate in the issue.
Despite rumors of fresh fighting Sunday, a Thai military official said the situation at the border was returning to normal, the report said.
By Wichit Chaitrong
Only Chong Chom customs check was closed due to the cross-border fighting between Cambodia and Thailand, said Customs Department director-general Prasong Poontaneat.
"We follow advice from the security force," he said. There is no adverse impact on Customs revenue due to the free trade pact, but the battles affects both sides' daily trade, he said.
While the Federation of Thai Industries chairman Payungsak Chartsuthipol said the intensified border dispute has short-term effect on trade and investment. "We're worried but the situation is contained at the border, not in big cities," he said. Thai investors in Cambodia may have planned to evacuate but the situation still remains quite normal in a large part of the country, he said.
Thais invest over Bt10 billion in Cambodia with the bilateral trade accounts for about Bt50 billion per year and Thailand gains a large surplus in trade, he said. He expects both sides will attempt to solve the border conflict by a peaceful mean.
Feb 7, 2011
Singapore - Singapore said Monday that it was concerned by ongoing border clashes between Thai and Cambodian troops, calling on the two fellow members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to hold talks.
The fighting started Friday and continued for a fourth day Monday near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, which has been disputed by the two countries for more than 50 years. It has killed two on the Thai side and injured 31 while Cambodian sources said their side has suffered three dead.
'We are deeply concerned by the recent clashes and call on both countries to exercise restraint,' Singapore's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
'We urge Thailand and Cambodia to resolve their differences through negotiations,' it said.
The ministry said Singapore welcomed and supported the scheduled visit by Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa of Indonesia, the current chairman of ASEAN, to Phnom Penh on Monday and Bangkok on Tuesday.
Feb 7, 2011
Bangkok/Phnom Penh - Fighting between Thai and Cambodian troops broke out Monday in an ongoing border conflict that killed five over the weekend and forced 15,000 Thai civilians to flee their homes.
In the fourth day of fighting, shelling began at 8:10 am (0110 GMT) near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan said.
The fighting has killed two on the Thai side - one soldier and one civilian - and injured 31 while forcing 15,000 Thai civilians to flee their homes in Si Sa Ket province, 450 kilometres north-east of Bangkok, Thai officials said.
Cambodian sources said their side had suffered three dead: two soldiers and one civilian.
Both governments claimed the other side started the fighting in the border area near Preah Vihear, which has been a bone of contention between the two countries for more than a half-century.
Phay Siphan said a wall of the Hindu monument had been damaged by Thai artillery fire Sunday.
'Thailand will keep shooting as long as the Cambodians are shooting at us,' Thai army spokesman Colonel Sansern Keowkhamnerd said.
On Saturday, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen sent a letter to the UN Security Council, claiming that Thai shells had fallen 20 kilometres inside Cambodia and damaged Preah Vihear.
He called on the United Nations to convene an urgent meeting of the Security Council 'to stop Thailand's aggression' and said the situation was 'gravely threatening' the region's peace and stability.
In response, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called Sunday on both sides to exercise restraint and resolve their dispute through dialogue.
Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa of Indonesia, which is the current chairman of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), was scheduled to visit Cambodia Monday to seek a peaceful solution to the escalating conflict involving two of ASEAN's members.
After Phnom Penh, Natalegawa was to visit Bangkok Tuesday.
To date, Thailand has insisted the border dispute should be settled between it and Cambodia.
'Thailand still maintains that the issue is best handled bilaterally though existing mechanisms,' Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said.
On Saturday, the two governments had agreed to reconvene the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Committee, which was set up in 2001 to handle a long festering dispute over sovereignty claims to the area around Preah Vihear, perched on a cliff on the border.
Cambodia claims the current fighting is the result of Thai forces attempting to seize parts of the contested area.
'Before they negotiate, they want to seize the ground,' Phay Siphan said, referring to land that has not yet been demarcated between the two nations.
Thousands of Thai and Cambodian troops have been stationed in the disputed area since mid-2008, making occasional clashes almost inevitable, observers said.
In 1962, the International Court of Justice awarded Preah Vihear to Cambodia but did not rule on a nearby plot of land, also claimed by both countries. In July 2008, the temple was inscribed on the list of World Heritage Sites.
The border is yet to be demarcated.
Bangkok, Feb 6 : Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva insisted Sunday Thai troops were not to blame for deadly border skirmishes with Cambodia, as a fragile truce held along a strip of disputed land.
"I confirm that Thailand did not invade Cambodian territory," Abhisit said. "But we reserve our right to protect our sovereignty in an appropriate way."
"Our counterattacks never target civilians, only the (Cambodian) military that started firing on us," he said.
One Thai soldier, one civilian and at least three Cambodians were reportedly killed Friday and Saturday in exchanges of small arms and artillery fire along the border between Thailand's Si Sa Ket province and Cambodia's Preah Vihear province.
About 15 Thai soldiers were wounded and several houses damaged.
Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong lodged a protest with the UN Security Council Saturday, accusing Thai troops of "flagrant aggression".
The fighting took place near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, which has been disputed by the two countries for more than 50 years.
The cliff-side Khmer Hindu temple was awarded to Cambodia in a 1962 ruling by the International Court of Justice, but ownership of adjoining land has remained in dispute.
Cambodian authorities Saturday said the temple was damaged by Thai fire during the two-day artillery duel.
Abhisit has come under political pressure to take a stronger line against Cambodia.
Several thousand demonstrators from the ultra-nationalist People's Alliance for Democracy camped outside Government House to demand the prime minister's resignation because of his alleged failure to deal decisively with the border issue.
The alliance played a key role in bringing down three Thai governments since 2006.
The protesters are demanding that Thailand scrap a 2000 memorandum of understanding with Cambodia to solve border disputes peacefully.
Under terms of that agreement, Thai and Cambodian border forces negotiated a ceasefire Saturday and officers from both sides were meeting Sunday to maintain the peace.
Abhisit said that due to the border clashes he would seek to suspend the ancient temple's listing as a UNESCO World Heritage sight, at a meeting scheduled in June in Bahrain.
He called for Thais of all political persuasions to support Thai forces deployed along the border.
Thailand is ready and willing to explain its position in the border conflict with Cambodia to the United Nations Security Council, government acting spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said on Monday.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has asked the UN to intervene in the Thai-Cambodian conflict.
Mr Panitan said that Thailand had previously explained the situation with Cambodia to the UN Security Council and would send additional explanations to the council if Cambodia repeated its complaint.
Mr Panitan said the agenda of the council depend on the decisions of its permanent members and non-permanent members. All the members must agree with the agenda first.
Thailand has briefed its representatives. The council may reach a resolution, but the process is complicated and permanent member countries have the right to veto a resolution.
“Mostly, it considers situations without reaching a resolution. If some country wants to get involved by deploying its forces, that would need approval from the five permanent member countries.
"For an issue to be discussed it must be seen as a serious issue.
"At present, there are the issues in Egypt and Tunisia. The issue of Thailand and Cambodia must follow the procedures. If there is a complaint, we are ready to explain. That is it,” Mr Panitan said.
Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Three Cambodian army soldiers injured during fighting with Thailand are transported by truck to Siem Reap for medical treatment, with two comrades assisting.
Monday, 07 February 2011 10:59 Cheang Sokha
Preah Vihear province
Fighting broke out last night for the third time in three days along the contentious border near Preah Vihear temple, breaking a truce brokered by military commanders.
Pen Pong, a military official stationed at Sa Em village, said clashes began at around 6:30pm, with both sides exchanging 105mm artillery fire and BM-40 rockets in the areas of Phnom Trop, Chak Chreng and Sambok Khmum close to the temple. He added that dozens of the Thai shells have fallen as far as Sa Em, which lies 27 kilometres inside Cambodian territory.
Ten Navun, an officer in Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Battalion 404, said shells were still falling as of 10:15pm.
“We are still attacking each other now and the shelling is continuing,” Ten Navun said by phone, against a backdrop of artillery fire. “I am sorry I can’t say more, because the enemy might shoot me.”
No casualty figures could be confirmed as of press time, though sources in both countries reported injuries on both sides.
“There are some injured troops from the two sides but I don’t know how many of them,” said Chin Vannak, a military official stationed along the border.
“We cannot calculate when the fighting will be stopped as troops from both sides are still fighting.”
A military officer in Military Region 5 also reported that about 2,000 Thai paratroopers were deployed along the border in O’Beichoan commune, in Banteay Meanchey province’s O’Chrou district, more than 100 kilometres from Preah Vihear temple.
During the fighting, Prime Minister Hun Sen wrote to United Nations Security Council President Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, denouncing Thailand’s “full-scale armed aggression” against Cambodia and calling for the council to intervene to halt the Thai action.
“This fresh onslaught by the Thai armed forces has resulted in more human casualties and damages to the temple of Preah Vihear as well as other properties,” he wrote.
“Considering [these] recent extremely grave aggressions by Thailand, which has gravely threatened peace and stability in the region, I earnestly request Your Excellency to convene an urgent session of the [UNSC] so as to stop Thailand’s aggression.”
Clashes first erupted on Friday afternoon along an eight-kilometre stretch of the border near the temple at Phnom Trop, Ta Thav, Veal Entry and Chak Chreng. Firefights also broke out on Saturday morning, with the skirmishes ultimately leaving two Cambodian soldiers and one villager dead and 23 soldiers wounded, RCAF officials said. Thai state media reported that one Thai soldier and one civilian had been killed and 14 Thai soldiers had been wounded.
Cambodian officials say the clashes were triggered when Thai troops crossed onto Cambodian soil and opened fire. Thailand has claimed, however, that Cambodian troops were the source of the hostilities. Last night, the sides again blamed one another for re-igniting battle.
In a statement yesterday evening, the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit claimed that heavy Thai shelling on Cambodian positions had caused the collapse of a wing of the eleventh-century Khmer temple.
“A wing of our Preah Vihear Temple has collapsed as a direct result of the Thai artillery bombardment,” the statement quoted an unnamed Cambodian military commander as saying.
“The Thai army began shooting at us first, we are taking self-defence and retaliatory measures, now.”
Thai Army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd told the AFP news agency, however, that Cambodian troops touched off last night’s fighting by igniting “fireworks” and discharging their weapons.
“Thailand has retaliated. The fighting is still going on. There are no reports of casualties,” he said.
The two sides have exchanged fire in the area on several occasions since 2008, when Preah Vihear temple was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site for Cambodia over Thai objections. Thailand subsequently concentrated military forces in the area with the Cambodian military responding in kind. At least seven soldiers in total from both sides had been killed since 2008 prior to the most recent round of clashes.
Sar Thavy, deputy governor of Preah Vihear province, said roughly 1,000 families living near the temple had been evacuated to avoid weapons and artillery fire. The Thai foreign ministry said 3,000 Thai civilians had been evacuated.
Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvara, a pagoda adjacent to the temple, was also “seriously damaged” in last night’s clashes, said Sun Saing, the pagoda’s abbot. The pagoda was the source of controversy last week, when Thai officials including Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva demanded that a Cambodian flag flying at the site be removed. In addition, bullet holes and surface-level damage were visible on the temple yesterday in the aftermath of clashes on Friday and Saturday.
Heam Vuthy said the damage to the temple would be reported to UNESCO for the body to “take measures” to address the issue. Abhisit, meanwhile, proposed that Preah Vihear’s UNESCO registration be suspended, Thai state media reported.
The recent round of hostilities come following the arrest in late December of seven Thai nationals including a parliamentarian along the border in Banteay Meanchey province, several hundred kilometres from Preah Vihear.
Five members of the group, including MP Panich Vikitsreth, were released last month on suspended sentences after being convicted of illegal entry. The other two, which included Veera Somkwamkid, a high-profile member of Thailand’s nationalist Yellow Shirt movement – were sentenced to lengthy jail terms on espionage charges.
Abhisit has been under intense pressure at home from Yellow Shirts incensed by Veera’s conviction and Preah Vihear’s UNESCO registration. The Yellow Shirts staged street protests in Bangkok last week urging Abhisit to take a harder line against Cambodia and to push back against alleged encroachment along the border.
The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear temple sits within Cambodian territory, though the two sides continue to disagree over the sovereignty of territory in the surrounding area.