Despite tense relations between their two countries, Thai and Cambodian soldiers rang in the New Year together this week at the Ta Moan temple in Oddar Meanchey province.
Military and border police commanders from each side were invited to attend parties at the temples of Ta Moan Thom, where Cambodian forces are stationed, and Ta Moan Touch, where the Thais are, said Region 4 Deputy Commander Pov Heng, who is based at Ta Moan in Banteay Ampil district.
“We want to create friendship between Cambodian and Thai soldiers along the border and we have just invited a few of the Thai commanders for a party, he said.
As the situation is much less tense at Ta Moan than at the Preah Vihear temple, where a gun battle erupted on April 3, soldiers were allowed to organize parties at Ta Moan and all along the border in Oddar Meanchey, he said.
The Ministry of Defense provided special food and drink, including chicken soup and fruit, for the holiday, which the Thais celebrate on April 12, he said.
“We had our country’s Angkor Beer and the Thais had Singha Beer,” said Region 4 Chief of Staff Nark Vong.
Parties were organized in shifts since Monday, one unit—or about 60 people—at a time, while the rest of the troops continued watching the front line, he said. By the end of today, each unit should have had its chance to hail the year of the ox, he added.
At dinner Sunday and Monday, about a dozen Cambodian officers sat at a table with the Thais, and each side took the opportunity to reiterate their desire to keep the peace at the temple and avoid escalations such as those at Preah Vihear, he added.
A larger celebration was also organized Wednesday at the temple, where villagers joined soldiers, said Kokmon commune resident Chan Than, a 24-year-old vendor at the temple.
Oddar Meanchey Governor Yim Thin said both sides of the temple complex remained open to all visitors for the duration of the holiday.