Military Reports Thai Troops Growing in Number at P Vihear Remains Stable

Cambodian military officials said Mon­day that the number of Thai troops deployed near Preah Vihear temple has visibly increased since the World Heritage Committee meet­ing in Spain last month but add­­ed that the situation at the 11th cen­­tury structure remained stable.

Basing his estimates on what he has observed around Preah Vihear, RCAF Major General Srey Dek said the number of Thai soldiers has doubled while the amount of mil­­itary equipment has also grown. He said the change began about the time of the heritage meeting, dur­ing which the Unesco-affiliated com­mittee accepted a Cambodian re­port on preservation efforts at the mon­­ument. At the same time, the Thai government stated it would push for a joint-registration of the tem­ple between the two nations.

“The Thais have increased more tanks, artillery and forces to the frontline,” he said by telephone from the disputed border area. “In front of me there are more than 4,000 Thai troops, which increased from 2,000 before the reaction of the Thai prime minister over the meeting in Spain.”

He added more trenches are be­ing dug close to the frontier and con­crete bunkers are appearing farther back from the line.

Colonel Werachon Sukond­ha­pa­tipak, deputy spokesman from the Thai Army, said Thai forces have put up some fortifications along the border but construction came as a re­sponse to Cambodia’s own build­up. He said he did not have details on the size and scope of Thailand’s de­fenses but stated he did not be­lieve either side was ea­g­er to do battle.

“We try to avoid any provocative ac­t­ions. Both sides know the consequences if the situation gets out of hand,” he said from Bangkok. “We regard Cambodia as our neighbor.”

Officials at the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh declined requests for an interview.

Chap Pheakdey, commander for the paratrooper unit Brigade 911, said the atmosphere at the temple remained calm but that Cambodia was holding its ground.

“We have practiced [Prime Mini­s­ter Hun Sen’s] advice, which is we will not move forward or backwards even one millimeter,” he said.

  (Additional reporting by Frank Radosevich)


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