Military Sends Troops, Equipment to Thai Border

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)

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