Thai, Cambodian Troops Square Off at Border

Cambodian and Thai troops were reportedly staring each other down with weapons drawn Friday over a land dispute near a proposed border crossing site in Ban­teay Meanchey province, military officials said.

Cambodian troops were building a wooden fence around disputed territory located some 7 km from Poipet commune when an estimated 200 Thai troops with tanks in tow confronted the RCAF soldiers and demanded a halt to the fence construction, Tim Sa­reth, deputy chief of RCAF’s border affairs bureau, said Friday.

“This is a misunderstanding,” he said. “No guns have been fired here yet, but both sides are standing by to defend their territory.”

Thach Khorn, governor of Ban­teay Meanchey province, asked the joint Thai-Cambodian border committee to help resolve the long-standing border dispute. Since the site may turn into an official border crossing and an industrial zone one day, he said, both countries are eager to protect potentially valuable land.

The joint border committee should resolve this as soon as possible “so our troops don’t get into trouble anymore,” he said Friday.

Co-Minister of Defense Prince Sisowath Sirirath said “high levels” were discussing the dispute Friday and lauded Cambodian soldiers for standing firm.

“Cambodian soldiers are protecting our territorial integrity,” he said. But, he added, “I think it’s time for both sides to cool down.”

Surasak Suparat, an official at the Thai Embassy, said Friday that the embassy had no information on the stand-off.

On the border, Khoun Vanna, an RCAF commander, said by telephone Friday he has seen about ten such stand-offs since 2002. He insisted that the fence was being built on Cambodian territory.

“I will fight if the Thai troops come to fight us,” he said. “Our side makes no mistake at all at the border areas.”

Tim Sareth was more diplomatic, but still firm. “I hope our top leaders can solve this problem,” he said. “But we are not careless in protecting our territory.”




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