choam ksan district, Preah Vihear province – The area around Preah Vihear temple remained quiet yesterday, the second successive day that Cambodian and Thai forces have held their fire since fighting started last Friday.
General Hing Bunheang, deputy RCAF commander-in-chief and commander of the Prime Minister Bodyguard Unit, said RCAF troop numbers at the front line remained normal, despite reports that Thailand had beefed up its forces.
“Thailand is building up their troops, but not on my side,” Gen Bunheang said, adding that troops were only stationed at the temple to defend Cambodian territory.
“Cambodia has never opened fire first on anyone. This is the order from Samdech [Hun Sen]. As you have seen…I have very few troops at the front line in front of the temple.
“Cambodia is fully enforcing the order from [Mr Hun Sen] not to invade even a single centimeter or millimeter inside other countries.”
Gen Bunheang also rejected Thai news reports that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s son, Major General Hun Manet, was commanding Cambodian forces near the temple, adding that Maj Gen Manet, commander of the RCAF Counterterrorism Task Force, was currently in Phnom Penh.
The Nation, a Bangkok daily, reported Tuesday that Maj Gen Manet had commanded Cambodian troops in the latest fighting around Preah Vihear temple. Citing unnamed Thai military sources, The Nation said an unconfirmed report from Cambodia claimed that Maj Gen Manet was injured on Sunday.
“I would like to completely reject that Manet is involved. I and General Chea Dara directly command over this battlefield to protect Khmer territory. Manet is not involved in this.”
The prime minister also denied Thai media reports about his son during a speech yesterday.
A convoy of about 30 four-wheel drive vehicles, carrying a bipartisan delegation of CPP and SRP lawmakers from the National Assembly, arrived here early yesterday morning to meet with troops at a Bodyguard Unit base about 20 km south of the temple.
Leading the delegation was CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap, chairman of the banking and finance committee of the National Assembly, who said he wanted to gain an update on the situation after hearing information that Thailand had moved extra troops to the front.
SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said Cambodia’s bipartisan approach to dealing with the military clashes was a far cry from what he called Thailand’s “political turmoil.”
“We want to display our unity,” Mr Chhay said. “In Thailand, the ‘red shirts’ and the ‘yellow shirts’ fight with each other over all sorts of things.
“We take a different approach here when it comes to war or fighting. In the Cambodian sense, any war drags the whole country along with it.”
Mr Chhay said that he also wanted to check on the professionalism of Cambodian soldiers and the equipment they had been provided, as he had visited a few years ago and found that soldiers had received inadequate footwear and equipment.
The delegation of lawmakers, however, only met with well-equipped soldiers in formation at the Bodyguard Unit base and did not travel to the front line near the temple, where many troops told reporters they preferred to wear flip flops in the battlefield.
National Police Commissioner Neth Savoeun also visited the base yesterday to receive an update on the situation at the border from Gen Bunheang.
Chek Heng, chairwoman of the Cambodian Red Cross Preah Vihear branch, said yesterday that the numbers of families seeking refuge at four evacuation camps in Koulen district had dried up.
“In terms of an increase, the number of the evacuees has only changed a little,” Ms Heng said.