Sar Kheng Probes Standoff on Thai Border

Interior Minister Sar Kheng left Phnom Penh for the Thai border Sunday afternoon to investigate a dis­pute that escalated into an armed stand-off between Thai and Cambodian troops earlier this month.

“We need to conduct an investigation,” Sar Kheng told reporters Sunday, adding that he and Var Kim Hong, chairman of the na­tional border commission, would personally look into the case.

The April 9 standoff near a proposed border crossing in Banteay Meanchey province lasted more than a day, as some 60 Thai troops and 60 Cambodian soldiers reportedly stared each other down with weapons drawn.

The incident erupted when Cambodian soldiers began erecting a fence on contested land along the border about 7 km from Poipet commune, officials said. No shots were fired, and both sides withdrew the following afternoon after some “high-level” negotiations, Co-Minister of De­fense Prince Sisowath Sirirath said at the time. He said construction on the fence was halted.

King Norodom Sihanouk weighed in on the dispute on Sat­urday, calling the standoff a “very serious incident” and warned of further border encroachment by neighboring countries.

“[A] large unit of the powerful Royal Thai Army did not hesitate to enter ‘our place’ Khmer, to destroy completely the wall in con­struction,” King Sihanouk said in a message posted on his Web site.

“As I have already said many times, in one century or two, Cambodia, so-called ‘Fatherland of Angkor,’ will have the superficies of the Principality of Mon­aco,” he said.

Sar Kheng, however, said Cambodia would have to hear the Thais’ side of the story before making any further decisions.

Reached by telephone Sunday, Var Kim Hong said he, too, would visit the border next week. He added that the dispute has been resolved.

Meanwhile, officials at the Poipet international checkpoint said Thai tourists were visiting Cambodia as usual.

Thai Embassy secretary Song­chai Chaipatiyut did not answer  telephone calls for comment on Sunday.

(Additional reporting by Wency Leung)

 

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