Cambodian and Thai soldiers clashed briefly at the border in Oddar Meanchey province yesterday, after confronting each other during their morning patrols, a Defense Ministry official said.
Lieutenant General Chhum Sucheat, spokesman for the Defense Ministry, said no one was injured in the firefight, which occurred in Trapaing Prasat district’s O’Svay commune.
“It was about five to six minutes of shooting that ended by 9:45 am,” Lt Gen Sucheat said. “There was no one injured, because they were only using AK-47 [rifles] and M-79 [grenade launchers] to shoot at each other.”
As the situation at the border returned to normal yesterday, military officials presented different reasons for the latest hostilities.
Lt Gen Sucheat said that about 20 RCAF soldiers were patrolling on the Cambodian side of the border when they encountered a group of 10 Thai soldiers who were also patrolling. He said he was unsure who fired first.
“There was confusion as there was heavy rain, and they were patrolling in thick forest,” Lt Gen Sucheat said, adding that the area was a well-known location for illegal timber smuggling.
General Chea Dara, RCAF deputy commander in chief and head of forces based at Preah Vihear temple, said that Thai soldiers entered Cambodian territory and fired their weapons first at the Cambodian troops.
“Thai soldiers fired their M-79 [grenade launchers] at our forces first,” Gen Dara said, adding that troops from both sides met with each other immediately after the clash to bring the situation back to normal.
“There is no confusion…. It’s because Thailand has the greed to invade Cambodia,” he said. “Please quote my words that Thailand should give up their invasion ideas.”
RCAF Major Nhim Choeung, who is in charge of the stretch of border where the fighting occurred, said yesterday the armed exchange took place in Pha Av commune, not O’Svay commune, and lasted around 30 minutes.
“We were patrolling inside our land when we met 15 to 30 Thai soldiers who fired first,” Maj Choeung said. “We shot B-40 and B-42 [rocket propelled grenades] at them eight times,” he added.
Maj Choeung said that his troops advanced on the location where the Thai forces had been shooting from after the fight, but did not find any evidence to show that anyone was hurt in the incident.
Officials from the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs could not be contacted for comment yesterday.
Cambodian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong, however, said he did not believe that the incident would have a negative impact on bilateral relations.
“I do not think this will hurt our relationship with Thailand,” Mr Kuong said.
The fighting is the second incident of its kind between Thai and Cambodian forces on the borderline in Oddar Meanchey province during the past three months.
In April, Cambodian and Thai soldiers clashed nearby in Samraong City’s O’Smach commune. During the fighting a mortar shell, fired by Thai soldiers, landed about 100 meters from a Cambodian primary school.
(Additional reporting by Saing Soenthrith and Mark Worley)