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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Cambodia says king to miss British royal wedding

PHNOM PENH - Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni cannot attend the wedding of Britain's Prince William, Phnom Penh's foreign ministry said Saturday, but denied he had ignored the invitation.

British daily The Sun had reported that King Sihamoni was the only one of and estimated 40 foreign royals invited to the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton on April 29 not to reply.

"His Majesty the King already responded to the invitation on April 8," Cambodian foreign ministry spokesman Koy Kuong told AFP.

"Due to his royal work, the king is unable to attend the royal wedding," he added.

A worldwide television audience of two billion people is set to watch the event live while crowds of hundreds of thousands are expected to line the route from London's Westminster Abbey to catch a glimpse of the newlyweds.

King Sihamoni, 57, is currently in China for a medical checkup.

His father, former Cambodian king Norodom Sihanouk, was one of Asia's longest-serving monarchs, but abruptly abdicated in 2004 in favour of his son, citing old age and health problems.

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Cambodian, Thai armed clashes force 5,000 Cambodian villagers flee home

PHNOM PENH, April 23 (Xinhua) -- Two straight days of armed clashes between Cambodian and Thai troops over the disputed border areas have forced 1,420 Cambodian families to flee their home for safe shelter, said a senior government official on Saturday.

As of Saturday at 4:00 p.m., 1,420 families with 5,000 people have been evacuated to a safe shelter in Banteay Meanchey province' s Samrong district, some 30 kilometers from the fighting zone, Nhim Vanda, the first vice-president of the Cambodian National Committee for Disaster Management, said on Saturday.

The two straight days of armed clashes on Friday and Saturday broke out at the Ta Mon Thom temple and Ta Krabey temple in Oddar Meanchey province, left troops on both sides killed and injured, the temples were in damage and villagers' properties were destroyed.

In the villages near the fighting areas, Cambodian soldiers have found shrapnel and craters resulted from the artillery shelling by Thai troops during the clashes.

Cambodia's Ministry of Defense on Saturday afternoon issued a statement to condemn Thailand for its "repeated deliberate acts of aggression against Cambodia."

"Thai side used DK 75 and 105 mm heavy guns loaded with poisonous gas in today's (April 23, 2011) assault," it said. "Thai military aircraft, including reconnaissance planes flew deep into Cambodia's airspace."

"Heavy weapons, including 130 mm, 105 mm and 155 mm artilleries have also been used during this latest military onslaught," the statement said.

The latest military clashes between the two countries'troops reoccurred just more than two months after the deadly clash on Feb. 4-7 at the border disputed area next to the Preah Vihear temple, a World Heritage Site.

Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple was enlisted as a World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008. Just a week after the enlistment, Cambodia and Thailand have had a 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.

Meanwhile, Indonesia, as current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), strongly called for the immediate cessation of hostilities between Cambodia and Thailand that recommenced since April 22, a press statement said on Saturday.

"Indonesia also calls for the two sides to continue to resolve their differences through peaceful means as has been reflected in addressing the border dispute between the two countries," said Kusuma Habir, a spokesperson at the Foreign Ministry.

She said that Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa is in communication with his Cambodian and Thailand counterparts to address this latest development.
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Thai, Cambodia fighting leaves 7 dead in two days

By Tang Chhin Sothy Tang Chhin Sothy

SAMRONG, Cambodia (AFP) – Heavy fighting erupted again Saturday on the Thai-Cambodia border, leaving seven soldiers dead in two days -- the worst bloodshed since a UN appeal in February for a permanent ceasefire.

AFP- Cambodia soldiers prepared a BM21 Rocket Launcher near
 Thai-Cambodia border in Oddar Meanchey Province
The two neighbours have fought a series of deadly gun battles in recent years in disputed jungle near ancient temples along the frontier, which has never been fully demarcated, partly because it is littered with landmines.
One Thai soldier died in Saturday's fighting and several others were injured, according to a Thai military source, a day after three troops were killed on each side and more than a dozen injured.

The Cambodian defence ministry accused Thailand of using 75mm and 105mm "heavy guns loaded with poisonous gas", but gave no further details and the claim could not be independently verified. The Thai army denied allegation.

In its statement, the Cambodian defence ministry said Thailand was invading its territory "using ground troops and many types of artillery" and said its civilians were in danger.

Thousands of villagers have evacuated from nearby areas on both sides following the latest flare-up of violence.

"Most of the people in my village have fled their homes because many Thai artillery shells landed nearby," 29-year-old farmer Has Pov told AFP at a pagoda complex where he took refugee with his wife and two children in the Cambodian town of Samrong about 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the fighting.

"I'm really scared by the shelling," he added.

Thailand recently admitted using controversial Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions during the February fighting but insisted it did not classify them as cluster munitions.

As usual, the two countries accused each other of starting the latest clash, which appeared to have abated after several hours Saturday.

"All of sudden they fired at us," Thai Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwon told AFP.

"It could be that they wanted to internationalise the situation to attract a third country (to intervene). We do not want to fight but have to retaliate when they fire at us," he said, calling for the resumption of bilateral talks to resolve the territorial dispute.

"We have to put pressure on them to go back to the meeting table," he said.

The fighting resumed at about 6 am (2300 GMT Friday) with rifle fire and shelling in the same area as Friday's deadly standoff, according to spokesmen on both sides.

It is the first serious outbreak of hostilities since February when 10 people were killed in clashes near the 900-year-old Hindu temple Preah Vihear, prompting UN Security Council members to call for a lasting ceasefire.

Phnom Penh has called for outside mediation to help end the standoff, but Thailand opposes third-party intervention.

The two countries agreed in late February to allow Indonesian observers in the area near Preah Vihear, but the Thai military has since said they are not welcome and they have yet to be deployed.

The latest standoff, which saw more than six hours of fighting on Friday, took place near a different group of temples over 100 kilometres away from Preah Vihear.

Indonesia, which holds the rotating chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regional bloc, has called for an immediate end to the violence. Vietnam urged "maximum restraint."

Ties between the neighbours have been strained since Preah Vihear -- the most celebrated example of ancient Khmer architecture outside Cambodia's Angkor -- was granted UN World Heritage status in July 2008.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia, but both countries claim ownership of a 4.6 square kilometre (1.8 square mile) surrounding area.
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