Gov’t Says Shots Fired at Border Before UN Talks

Military commanders said Thai troops continued firing at Cambo­dian positions near Preah Vihear temple on Sunday night, a day before each country was to appear before the UN Security Council to offer their accounts of the deadly border fighting earlier this month.

In Koh Kong province, officials say thousands are also fleeing the area after reports of a Thai naval buildup.

Fighting broke out between Thai and Cambodian troops on Feb 4 over a disputed stretch of border near Preah Vihear temple. Cambo­dia says the four straight days of fighting claimed the lives of seven of its people, including two civilians. The latest official Thai reports place their own casualties at one soldier and one civilian. Thousands of families have been displaced on either side.

The last shots were exchanged Feb 7, though RCAF officials say Thai troops have tried provoking Cambodian fire since, to no avail.

Brigadier General Yim Phim, com­mander of the 8th brigade just west of the temple, said by telephone yesterday that Thai troops threw about 30 grenades toward their position but too far away to do any harm.

“They bother us almost every night,” he said. “Last night, they threw about 30 grenades toward our base, but they reached only 20 meters from their base and did not catch us.”

Brig Gen Phim said his troops have held their fire.

“We won’t shoot,” he said. “It is a waste of the bullets.”

He said Cambodian commanders immediately contacted their Thai counterparts, who claimed their troops had been spooked by noises in the woods.

“They said their soldiers were afraid after hearing sounds nearby, but they were just wild animals because the area is full of wild animals,” he said.

Thai officials in Bangkok could not be reached.

According to The Bangkok Post, Thai military officials yesterday claimed hearing nighttime ex­plosions along the border as well but attributed them to gunshots originating from well within Cam­bodian territory.

In Koh Kong province, meanwhile, officials say residents are moving further inland in fear of reports that Thai war ships have been gathering along their maritime border with Cambodia.

“Some of the villagers are leaving their homes. It’s about 20 to 30 percent of the villagers in the province,” said provincial governor Bun Leut, adding that efforts to calm residents were failing. “We have informed them about the issue, but they are still afraid and leaving their homes.”

Keo Chey Veng, a commune chief in Mondol Seima district, said up to 40 percent of his own residents had fled already.

In Kong Chet, a local coordinator for the human rights group Licadho, said he had seen the evacuation firsthand in Khemara Phoumint City.

“Many people are hurrying to put their motorbikes in their vans and leave the province for their relatives’ homes in Phnom Penh and Kam­pot province,” he said. “The market in the town is quiet. Some vendors have closed their stalls.”

Defense Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Chhum Su­cheat said yesterday that Cam­bodia had already prepared for a possibly naval attack from Thailand but added that he had yet to confirm reports of a Thai naval buildup within the past few days.

“We have not seen any new deployment,” he said. “The people’s panic may be caused by some rumor from person to person.”

In New York, the UN Security Council was scheduled to hear Cambodia and Thailand offer their accounts of the fighting yesterday morning. Bangkok and Phnom Penh have been accusing each other of starting the latest clashes.

Since asking for the meeting in a Feb 6 letter to the UN Security Council, Prime Minister Hun Sen has also said the UN should establish a buffer zone along the disputed border, complete with international peacekeepers. Thailand has been insisting on a bilateral settlement to the heightened tensions and was expected to press the point in New York.

 

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