No Withdrawal of Cambodian Troops From Border, Gov’t Says

The government yesterday rejected a Thai media report that RCAF troops have withdrawn from their positions at the border in Oddar Meanchey province where brief episodes of fighting broke out between the two countries on Saturday.

Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire early Saturday about 3 km east of the international border crossing in Samraong City’s O’Smach commune.

Both sides said none of their own troops were injured in the fighting, but the Cambodian defense ministry claimed that at least four Thai soldiers were hurt.

The Bangkok Post reported yesterday that Cambodian soldiers had withdrawn from their position inside “a disputed border area” after negotiations were held between opposing military officials.

Cambodian Defense Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Chhum Sucheat rejected the report immediately, saying that there was no need for RCAF troops to withdraw as their base was inside Cambodian territory.

“They say we withdraw from the area but this is not true because the location is in our territory,” Lt Gen Sucheat said yesterday. “It is our land.”

Lt Gen Sucheat declined to say whether he believed that the most recent border clash was related to the ongoing anti-government protests in Bangkok that have paralyzed the city’s high-end shopping zone and are threatening the survival of the Thai government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajjiva. Clashes between anti-government protesters and Thai forces left 24 dead and hundreds wounded in Bangkok on April 10.

“For our side, we do not care about the political problem in Bangkok. It does not mean anything to us,” Lt Gen Sucheat said. “We are military…. We just protect our country’s people.”

Thai government officials were unavailable for comment yesterday.

Lt Gen Sucheat said he could not comment on reports of a troop buildup in the area.

“We have the right to deploy troops near the border line to protect our country,” he said, adding that the situation at the border was back to “normal.”

Vath Paranin, secretary-general for the Oddar Meanchey provincial office, said yesterday that the result of the negotiations between the Thai and Cambodian military officials after Saturday’s fighting would be made public soon, adding that locals were not concerned.

“We heard the sound of gunfire but our villagers are not afraid,” Mr Paranin said.

Meanwhile, an RCAF official said that Thai soldiers had removed their tents from a disputed border zone about 4 km from Phnom Trop in Preah Vihear province, where they had set up camp on Friday.

Brigadier General Yim Phim, commander of the 3rd RCAF Division, 8th Brigade, said the soldiers removed their tents late on Sunday.

“Now, there is no one setting up their tents inside the joint-patrol zone now and no tension is rising up between both sides,” Brig Gen Phim said.

“We meet each other [almost] every day and say hello to each other…so no tension will rise.”


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