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Friday, December 16, 2011

Gunfire hits Thai Chopper

By Cheang Sokha


Cambodia military forces shot at a Thai military helicopter yesterday after it flew into Cambodian airspace in Koh Kong province.

Major General Dy Phen, chief of Cambodian-Thai border relations office, said the helicopter made an emergency landing after about 100 bullets were fired at it as it crossed markers in Koh Kong’s Mondul Seima district at about 1:30pm.

“They have abused the air territory of Cambodia, so we had to fire at them,” Dy Phen, who was recently promoted to the position of adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen, said.

The rear of the helicopter was damaged and could not fly, so it landed at the border between Koh Kong and Pursat provinces, he said.

“If we flew into their territory, they would also shoot at us, but so far we have not received any reaction from Thailand.”

Dy Phen said he believed the encroachment was deliberate and related to Thai soldiers wanting to erect a Buddhist statue along the border so they could deploy their military officials in the area.

“They did it on purpose,” he said. “Our soldiers are now following the situation.”

Attempts to place statues along the border had been made in the past, but Cambodian soldiers had always removed them, he said.

A high-ranking military official in Koh Kong province also confirmed to the Post that they fired at the helicopter after it flew into Cambodian territory.

“They tried to land, but we did not allow it,” he said.

Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongpakdee and Defence Ministry spokesman Thanatip Sawangsaeng could not be reached for comment, but a government source in Trat, Thailand, who did not wish to be named confirmed that a Thai military helicopter on a mission to supply a border post had suffered damage to its tail but had landed safely without anyone being injured.

At the Preah Vihear temple, on the border, Cambodian border-relations officials yesterday received a letter from their Thai counterparts saying Cambodian officials had brought a group of heritage experts to see the temple of Preah Vihear, damaged from shells during the clashes earlier this year, without prior permission, Chan Chhorn, official for the Preah Vihear National Authority, said.

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