preah vihear temple – Cambodian and Thai commanders met at the frontline of the disputed border area near Preah Vihear temple on Friday afternoon to discuss their strategies for dealing with a protest planned by ultra-nationalist Thai protesters for today.
RCAF Deputy Commander-in-Chief Chea Dara led a group of between 30 and 40 Cambodian riot police, holding plastic shields and muzzled German shepherd attack dogs, to a picnic table beside the Thai border, where they met with Thai commander Virak Phong.
“We just want a peaceful border and safety and development for both countries,” General Dara told his Thai counterpart. But, he added, “ [Prime Minister] Hun Sen told me not to lose even one millimeter of Cambodian territory.”
Mr Phong assured the Cambodian commander, through a translator, “I will find any means to prevent the entering of the rioters here.”
The People’s Alliance for Democracy, a radical Thai group known for their trademark yellow shirts, announced last week that its members would rally today near the disputed area outside the 11th century temple to protest the presence of Cambodian soldiers and civilians in the area.
On Friday afternoon, Cambodian soldiers near the border said that an unspecified number of yellow shirts had been stopped at a border control office on the Thai side.
Before his meeting with the Thai commander, General Dara and Major General Srey Dek, commander of forces at Preah Vihear, were heard preparing the riot police officers, ordering them not to fire their guns unless the protesters crossed the border.
“We are on high alert to prevent the opportunists from taking the hard-restored peaceful border and causing more problems,” said Lieutenant General Chhum Sucheat, undersecretary of state and spokesman for the Defense Ministry.
When asked whether Cambodian armed forces would open fire or arrest and detain Thai protesters if they crossed the borderline, he said: “there is no space in prison to detain them.”
A senior RCAF officer said more then 20 RCAF commanders in the area had attended a two hour meeting presided over by General Dara on Friday to discuss plans to repel the protestors.
Any border crossing will be dealt with severely, the commander said on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to comment.
“There’s no exception. If they come in, they must be cracked down on strongly and severely,” he said.
Cambodia this week deployed 50 Phnom Penh riot policemen and 15 police dogs to the temple in anticipation of the protest.
Thailand has taken similar measures-shipping roughly 200 riot police to the Thai province of Sisaket, which borders Preah Vihear, in order to head off the rally.
(Additional reporting Phann Ana)