The government sent troops and military equipment to Preah Vihear province over the weekend to bolster defense of its border with Thailand amid rising tensions, Defense Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Chhum Sucheat said.
“We have already prepared,” Lt Gen Sucheat said yesterday. “All the military equipment has arrived after it was transported from the [military] base on Friday,” he added, declining to specify the number of troops or type of equipment sent.
He echoed a Foreign Ministry statement from Friday, insisting that a Cambodian flag staked inside disputed territory along the border would stay exactly where it was.
“[We] will not remove the Cambodian flag from the temple, because it is our territory,” Lt Gen Sucheat said.
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has twice called for the flag’s removal since Friday, following a demand last week that Cambodia remove a stone tablet that also stakes claim to the area near the temple. On Wednesday, Defense Minister Tea Banh said Cambodia would remove the tablet.
Thai media reported Friday the country’s military had stepped up its own presence along the border.
Major General Srey Dek, commander of the 3rd RCAF Division in Preah Vihear, yesterday confirmed an influx of Thai troops to the area, but could not provide numbers.
In a move that could help diffuse tension, however, the Foreign Ministry announced Friday that Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya would attend a meeting of the Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation Between Cambodia and Thailand in Siem Reap later this week.
Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi yesterday declined to elaborate on the agenda.
“They will be discussing wide-ranging issues…as well as political and military issues,” he said.
Mr Thani would not say whether the foreign minister would broach the latest military buildup along the border, but said “security and military issues will certainly be discussed.”
The border buildups follow Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s Jan 21 conviction of five Thais, including lawmaker Panich Vikitsreth, of entering Cambodia illegally. The court on Tuesday will try two other Thais, who allegedly entered Cambodia with the others on Dec 29, on espionage charges.
(Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter)