Pact Eases Tensions In Thai Border Dispute

Despite claiming that as many as 300 Thai soldiers remain on Cambodian soil, a senior Cam­bodian military official said Tuesday that an agreement hastily negotiated following last week’s alleged Thai border incursion has eased tension in Preah Vihear province.

But Thailand’s ambassador to Cambodia on Tuesday continued to called the reported border crossing a “misunderstanding,” saying that between Feb 10 and 12 Thai and Cambodian military units engaged in a joint search for Cambodian bandits who abducted 12 Thai citizens.

The comments follow claims last week by Cambodian military officials of a sizable Thai military force—allegedly supported by tanks and helicopters—pushing several hundred meters into Cambodia and setting up camp.

While Cambodian officials in Phnom Penh on Tuesday downplayed the incident, they did acknowledge the situation was serious enough to send a special border dispute committee to the site. General Chea Mon, commander of Military Region 4, said Tuesday that RCAF commanders had convinced the Thai military to withdraw a few meters, but that Cambodian and Thai soldiers continue in a standoff.

In a letter to The Cambodia Daily dated Tuesday, Thai Ambassador Asiphol Chab­chitrchaidol further explained that Thai military helicopters seen flying throughout the area in early February were for the visit of Thai Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, who was on an extended visit of temples in Cambodia’s northwest. Cam­bodian soldiers there had earlier claimed the helicopters were flying reconnaissance missions over their military positions.

“The fact is no incident occurred,” Asiphol Chab­chit­rchaidol wrote, adding that, in a show of goodwill, a sporting event between the two military forces is planned to take place Thursday in the border area.

Said another Thai diplomat, “Relations between Thai and Cambodian military officers on the local level are very good.”

Chea Mon said he knew about the anticipated sporting event, but was unaware of any joint missions to arrest Cambodian bandits. He acknowledged tense times in the area for several days late last week as soldiers on both sides awaited an agreement between commanders.

RCAF Sergeant So Vankim, who said he served in the Choam Te area of the province until losing part of his right leg to a land mine Friday, remembered being no more than 50 meters from Thai soldiers. He said the Thais arrived by helicopter before advancing across the border and surprising Cambodian soldiers.

“We had to get our things and get ready very quickly to stand up to them,” So Vankim said Tuesday while recovering in Phnom Penh’s military hospital near Wat Phnom. He described standing guard the night following the alleged incursion and being told by his commanders the Thais would likely attack.

But So Vankim acknowledged that no fighting erupted during the week before he was injured, saying that shots were fired but he thought these were at birds or in the air.




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