Gov’t to Seek Asean Border Observers

Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong yesterday said Cam­bodia would ask Asean to send observers to the borderline around Preah Vihear temple as soon as possible, amid fresh reports of Thai rocket fire.

Thai media reported that troops stationed around the temple had again fought on Tuesday night.

Four straight days of deadly clashes along the disputed 4.6-km stretch of border around the 11th-century temple broke out Feb 4, claiming the lives of soldiers and civilians on both sides.

Thailand and Cambodia both de­fended their actions before the UN Security Council on Monday, which urged Asean to help settle the dispute.

Freshly arrived from the New York meet, Mr Namhong told re­porters at Phnom Penh Inter­national Airport yesterday that Thai troops had unleashed an eight-hour barrage of grenades and mortars starting at 9 pm Tuesday, in clear violation of a temporary cease-fire.

“We will use this incident of Thai shooting last night to urge Asean to send its observers more quickly,” he said.

The UN Security Council on Mon­day did not grant Cambodia’s request to send peacekeepers to the border, but urged both sides to talk their way to a lasting peace.

“The shooting last night and this morning violated the cease-fire called for by the UN Security Coun­cil,” Mr Namhong said.

The foreign minister did not specify exactly when Cambodia would ask for the observers.

The foreign ministers of all 10 Asean members are set to meet in Jakarta on Tuesday. Mr Namhong said he would use the meeting to ask Asean to help enforce a cease-fire and to send representatives to any future negotiations between Thai­land and Cambodia.

In New York, the Security Coun­cil urged Asean to help mediate the talks. Thailand has been insisting that border talks with Cambodia stay one-on-one.

Contacted at the border, RCAF Colonel Bou Ken, deputy commander, 9th Brigade, 3rd Division, said Thai troops started the attack by de­tonating landmines planted ahead of their front line.

“They started by detonating the landmines. Then they opened fire with handguns. Before dawn, they started firing mortars at my front line,” he said. “Their intention is to provoke [our] troops into firing back, but we were ordered to re­strain ourselves.”

Lieutenant General Chhum Su­cheat, spokesman for the Defense Ministry, said Thai and Cambodian commanders at the border held talks yesterday but did not know whether they had managed to diffuse the situation. He said Cam­bodian troops had nonetheless held their fire.

But according to The Bangkok Post, Thai army spokesman Colo­nel Sansern Kaewkamnerd said Cambodian troops tried to take a Thai position with grenades and mor­tar fire on several occasions throughout the night. He said Thai troops repelled each attack and sustained no casualties.

A statement from the Foreign Ministry yesterday claimed that Thai soldiers were injured by their own grenades, which hit “tree branches and bounced back.”

Though free of fighting, tensions have also reached Koh Kong pro­vince, where officials say up to a third of residents have fled inland amid reports of a Thai military buildup along their own international border.

The Deutsche Presse-Agentur news agency reported yesterday that the UN had withdrawn six employees from Koh Kong town and told its staff by e-mail to stay away “until further notice.”

The UN declined yesterday either to confirm or deny the report.

“The UN does not comment on staff security and safety,” a spokes­person said.

 

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