Thai, Cambodian Troops Clash After Weeks of Peace
Daniel Schearf | Bangkok April 22, 2011
Thai and Cambodian soldiers have exchanged fire near a disputed border area, breaking an informal ceasefire. The skirmish killed at least six soldiers and forced thousands of villagers to flee to safety.
Thai and Cambodian soldiers fought a brief battle Friday morning, with casualties on both sides.
No civilians were reported injured after the two militaries exchanged heavy gunfire and artillery along their disputed border.
But Thai military spokesman Werachon Sukondhapatipak says 7,500 villagers were evacuated on the Thai side and would not return until calm is restored. He says the fighting, which ended a two month lull in hostilities, stopped around mid-morning and the two military’s leaders were in contact to prevent further clashes.
"For the Royal Thai Army we did not reinforce troops or equipment but we have the soldiers or the unit deployed in that area alert, being on alert, because we don't know what would happen in the future." he said.
Both sides blame the other for starting the fighting.
Werachon says Cambodian soldiers broke an agreement to stay out of a disputed territory and then fired on Thai soldiers who gave them a "verbal warning."
Cambodia says Thai soldiers first advanced into Cambodian territory, firing their weapons.
Lt. Gen. Chhum Socheat is spokesman for the Cambodian Ministry of Defense. He says the Thai soldiers entered Cambodian territory and ambushed them at a temple when they were on patrol. He says at the same time they launched heavy weapons more than twenty kilometers at their base and on villagers.
The spokesman's assertion of attacks on villages could not be independently confirmed.
Tensions are high since clashes broke out in February in a disputed border area near a 900-year-old Khmer Hindu temple called Preah Vihear in Cambodia and Phra Viharn in Thailand.
Thai and Cambodian militaries exchanged heavy artillery and machine gun fire, killing several people, including civilians, and sending thousands fleeing the border.
Cambodia wants international support to end the conflict while Thailand says it must be resolved bilaterally.
Indonesia brokered an agreement to send its observers to the border to help restore peace, but the process has stalled over disagreement on which areas they should be allowed into.
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