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Saturday, February 05, 2011

Thailand, Cambodia Reach Ceasefire Agreement After Cross Border Firing

Thailand and Cambodia agreed to a ceasefire Saturday after renewed fighting in a disputed border region killed at least one soldier.

A tentative ceasefire appeared to be holding late Saturday after Thai and Cambodian troops exchanged artillery fire along their shared border.Military officials from the two countries blamed each other for the outbreak of hostilities, the first in the region resulting in fatalities in a year.Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn says the military has specific rules of engagement that were also communicated to Cambodia."We have instructed the military to respond only when attacked to specific military targets only, and the Prime Minister asked the officers in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to communicate this intention clearly to Cambodia,' Panitan said.

'The Prime Minister also hopes that we can continue to work with Cambodia in achieving a peaceful solution.

Only we regret that we have casualties on both sides."Fighting broke out late Friday near the 900 year old Preah Vihear temple in a disputed area near the Thai-Cambodia border.

The fighting is the latest flare-up between the neighboring nations over the disputed land and control of the ancient Hindu temple.

Both Cambodia and Thailand have laid claim to the temple. A 1962 World Court ruling awarded it to Cambodia, which also successfully had the temple declared a World Heritage site in 2008.

But the exact border near the temple has never been settled, leading to periodic skirmishes.Tensions have risen in recent days because of demonstrations by influential Thai nationalist groups demanding Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to take a tougher stance in the border dispute.Political observers say the clashes mark a setback in steps to promote a wider political security and community grouping within the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Both Thailand and Cambodia are ASEAN members.ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan expressed deep concern over the conflict, calling for and end to the violence and a return to negotiations.

Surin said both sides appeared open to some form of mediation by ASEAN.
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Thai-Cambodia clashes kill 1 more before new truce

Renewed fighting between Cambodian and Thai troops along the countries' disputed border killed a Thai soldier Saturday and sent thousands of people fleeing before military commanders agreed on the second cease-fire in two days.

The fiercest border clashes in years also damaged a landmark 11th century temple near a strip of disputed land that Thai nationalists have seized on as a domestic political issue.

There are conflicting casualty tolls, but as many as four have died in two days -- one civilian each from Thailand and Cambodia, and one soldier from each nation, according to officials from the two countries. Each side blames the other for starting the fighting.

Tensions between the Southeast Asian nations have risen in recent days because of demonstrations by influential Thai nationalist groups in Bangkok demanding that the government oust Cambodians from land near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple. The nationalists claim the land is actually part of Thailand.

The demonstrators -- from the same group, the People's Alliance for Democracy, that in 2008 occupied the Thai prime minister's offices and Bangkok's two airports in a bid to force out two previous governments -- have said they will escalate their pressure on Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The rally by the PAD -- also known as the Yellow Shirts -- has raised tensions in a country still recovering from political violence last year in which about 90 people died.

While full-blown war is unlikely, nationalist passions are inflamed in both countries -- with no clear way to settle the long-standing territorial dispute surrounding the temple, built during a time when Cambodia's Khmer empire ruled over much of Thailand.

Thai Army Spokesman Col. Sansern Kaewkamnerd said 2nd Region Army Commander Lt. Gen. Tawatchai Samutsakhon met with Cambodian generals after Saturday's fighting to agree on a cease-fire and not to deploy more troops to the area.

The two sides also agreed that Thailand would suspend construction of a road to the disputed area, which covers just 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km), according to the private Cambodian Television Network, which is close to the government.

"Everything depends on the Thai side. New fighting will erupt if Thai soldiers enter our territory, but there will be no fighting if they do not enter," Cambodian Maj. Gen. Srey Doek told reporters after the meeting.

The latest round of fighting began Friday on land near Preah Vihear temple, a U.N. World Heritage site that belongs to Cambodia under a 1962 World Court ruling disputed by many Thais.

Several mortar and artillery shells exploded just yards (meters) away from Preah Vihear, slightly damaging its walls and setting grass and several trees nearby ablaze, said Gen. Chea Tara, the deputy commander of Cambodia's armed forces.

Thailand's Foreign Ministry said at least 3,000 people have fled their homes, while Sar Thavy, deputy governor of Cambodia's Preah Vihear province, said 1,000 families had been evacuated.

Thailand initially said the flare-up could have been caused by a misunderstanding, but Cambodia described it as a deliberate "Thai invasion," claiming that as many as 300 Thai soldiers advanced Friday on a small pagoda to try to take down the Cambodian flag.

Ath Vicheth, a Cambodian soldier in the area, told The Associated Press by telephone that Saturday's began after a group of Thai soldiers tried to cross the border in search of missing soldiers.

Thai Army Spokesman Col. Sansern Kaewkamnerd, however, denied the claim and said no Thai soldiers were missing or captured. He said eight Thai soldiers have been wounded since Friday and 13 homes were either burned down or damaged. One Thai soldier was killed Saturday, he said.

The Preah Vihear issue was virtually dormant until Cambodia successfully applied in 2008 to UNESCO to have the temple declared a World Heritage site, an application backed by the government in power in Thailand at the time.

Thai nationalists have argued that the action threatened Thailand's sovereignty, though their protests were seen mainly as a way of rallying criticism to help oust the Thai government. Both countries' leaders, defending their patriotic credentials, then built up military forces at the border.

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Associated Press Writer Thanyarat Doksone contributed to this report from Bangkok, Thailand.

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ASEAN chief: Thailand, Cambodia should allow ASEAN to help ease conflict

BANGKOK, Feb 5 -- Thailand and Cambodia should allow fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to help settle their ongoing fierce fighting at the disputed border which entered a second day Saturday, said ASEAN secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan.

According to Mr Surin, a former Thailand foreign minister, the situation has escalated into open conflict, and that it would definitely affect ASEAN economic development, confidence in the region, tourism, and prospects for foreign investment, which have just begun picking up in light of the world economic recovery.

He said he had sent letters to Thai Foreign Affairs Minister Kasit Piromya and his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong to quickly find ways to end the conflict and exercise the utmost restraint so that both parties could return to the negotiating table.

Surin said he had been in touch with both sides, who he understood each welcomed ASEAN mediation.

As current chairholder of ASEAN, Indonesia is preparing to issue a statement expressing concerns over the tense situation along the Thai-Cambodian border, Mr Surin said.

He said both Thai and Cambodian foreign ministers have agreed to allow ASEAN to play a larger mediation role aimed at ending the fighting as short term measures but the format of ASEAN's role was not clearly specify.

Both countries, along with Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam, are member states of ASEAN. (MCOT online news)
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Roundup: Cambodia, Thai military talks result in 4 Thai soldiers released, three agreements

UDOR MEANCHEY, Cambodia, Feb 05, 2011 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- by Nguon Sovan

Cambodia on Saturday has delivered 4 Thai soldiers captured in a military clash at the border area near the 11th century temple on Friday afternoon back to Thailand after a 90 minute meeting between the military commanders of Cambodia and Thailand.

The meeting, held at Chorm Sra Ngam border checkpoint in Anlong Veng district, was attended by Cambodian Major General Srey Doek, commander of Military Division 3 and Major General Chea Mon, commander of Military Region 4, while Thai side including Lt Gen Thawatchai Samutsakorn, commander of Army Region 2 and Major General Chawalit Chunprasan, commander of the Suranari Military Camp, in an effort to find ways to prevent further military fighting.

Srey Doek told reporters after the meeting that Cambodia decided to release four Thai troops arrested on Friday's clash near Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple.

He added that at the meeting, both sides have agreed on three points: firstly, Thai side must suspend bulldozing land at the contentious border for road; secondly, both side agreed to urge the joint border committee to measure and demarcate the border as soon as possible; and thirdly there will be no more troop re- deployment and no more weapon explosion.

"Thai side has promised not to allow any weapon eruption in the future,"said Srey Doek, adding"but if Thai side still continues to invade into Cambodian territory, Cambodia will use its self-defense rights to defend our territory integrity."

Thai military commanders declined to comment after being questioned by reporters after the meeting.

The meeting was held after deadly military clashes twice on Friday afternoon and on Saturday early morning at the border near Preah Vihear Temple.

During the skirmishes, troops from both sides had exchanged fire of heavy weapons including rockets, machine guns and mortars, artillery.

Chan Sovanchay, a military official stationed at Preah Vihear Temple told Xinhua by telephone on Saturday that during the clash on Friday afternoon, two Cambodians were killed (one soldier and one tourist), and 22 were wounded, and the clash on Saturday morning, five Cambodian troops were seriously injured by shrapnel.

However, he added that he did not know how many Thai troops were killed in the two clashes, saying "I just saw that several corpses of Thai troops had been carried out of Cambodian territory by their fellow soldiers."

Meanwhile, Cambodia has sent an official letter to the United Nations Security Council on Saturday to complain about the invasions of Thai troops into Cambodia on Friday and Saturday.

The border between Thailand and Cambodia has never been completely demarcated and the issue of Preah Vihear temple has been an age-old dispute. Although the Internal Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the temple itself belonged to Cambodia, the row over land plot of 4.6 square km around the temple has never been resolved. And the two sides have clashed over the border in the past with several deaths on both sides since 2008.
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Cambodia sends letter to UN Security Council on border clash

Cambodia has sent a letter to the United Nations Security Council informing that Thailand had entered Cambodia and attacked Cambodian troops.

In a letter dated Feb. 5, and sent to Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, president of the UNSC, Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong said that on Feb. 4, 2011 between 3 to 5 pm, about 300 Thai troops entered Cambodian territory and attacked Cambodian troops at three locations. "This aggression by Thai armed forces was also followed by firing of many 130 mm and 155 mm artillery shells which reached as far as about 20 km inside Cambodian territory. The attack caused many serious damages to the Temple of Preah Vihear, a world heritage, as well as death and injury of more than ten Cambodian troops and villagers," the letter said.

And facing this flagrant aggression, Cambodian troops had no option, but to retaliate in self-defense and in order to safeguard Cambodia's sovereignty and territorial integrity, the letter added.

Hor Namhong said in the letter that "the repeated acts of aggression against Cambodia by Thailand violate" the Judgment of International Court of Justice (ICJ) on 15 June, 1962; article 2.3, 2.4, and 94.1 of the United Nations' Charter; the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) in Southeast Asia, Article 2 in which Cambodia and Thailand are parties; and Article 2.2.c, 2.2.d, of the Paris Peace Accord in 1991.

Hor Namhong asked president of the UNSC to "circulate this letter to all members of the United Nations Security Council as an official document."

As of Saturday, two rounds of fighting were erupted near Preah Vihear Temple, and the number of casualties remained conflicting between the two sides.

Kasit Piromya, Thai foreign minister said Friday evening that Thailand will also inform other parties including UNESCO on the border incident.

While situation remained tense at the border by Saturday lunch time, military commanders are holding meeting to defuse the tension.

Both sides have been blaming the other of launching the fire first.

The relations between Thailand and Cambodia had been strained recently over the territorial dispute as Cambodia refused to remove its national flag from the front of Wat Keo Sikha Kiri Svarak pagoda, which is located in the contentious areas of 4.6 square kilometers (1.8 square miles) around the Preah Vihear temple.

The border between Thailand and Cambodia has never been completely demarcated and the issue of ancient temple has been an age-old dispute. Although the International Court of Justice in 1962 awarded the temple itself to Cambodia, the row over land plot of 4.6 square kilometers surrounding the temple have never been solved.

Source: Xinhua
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