preah vihear temple – Thailand shifted troops and equipment along the border Wednesday and Thursday, as Cambodian forces were preparing for any eventuality, RCAF and government officials said Thursday, though they insisted that the situation was not yet cause for concern.
Mean Ly, RCAF Region 4 deputy secretary-general of staff, said he received information from the frontline Thursday that about 10 Thai trucks had come close to the border near Preah Vihear temple Wednesday night.
“We saw [the Thais] take three guns [two B-40 rocket and a machine gun] to the frontline near our soldiers’ camp [Wednesday] night,” Mean Ly said. “We heard several trucks come up to the border on their side, and I ordered our soldiers to be careful and to take shifts during the night because the situation is tense.”
Vann Thy, a 22-year-old soldier, said in an interview near Preah Vihear temple that he also heard the trucks around midnight Wednesday about 2 km from the Preah Vihear temple gate.
“Other soldiers and I at the frontline have not enough time to sleep because we are preparing for the events-shooting or war,” he said. “We are all the time with our guns: sleep with guns, work with guns, other weapons and grenades.”
Meanwhile, about 40 Thai protesters attempted to reach the locked gate to the Preah Vihear temple on Thursday but were stopped by Thai military police about 3 kilometers from the gate, Preah Vihear Authority Secretary-General Hang Soth said.
About 50 Cambodian military police remain at the temple in case Thai protesters attempt to bring down the gate, said Som Bopharoath, Preah Vihear provincial RCAF deputy commander, though he added that such an attempt was unlikely.
“What I can say is just that we are preparing [for] any possibility,” government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said by telephone Thursday. He added that included “fighting” but would not use the word “war.” He declined to say if Cambodia was moving troops or equipment as well.
The arrival of Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, who was scheduled to visit Cambodia on Monday, was moved up to Sunday, Cambodian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said Thursday.
During his visit to Phnom Penh, Somchai will meet with King Norodom Sihamoni, Prime Minister Hun Sen, Senate President Chea Sim and National Assembly President Heng Samrin, according to a schedule released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh and the Royal Thai Army headquarters in Bangkok could not be reached for comment. The Thai ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense both declined to comment when contacted by telephone.
At Ta Moan temple, where Thai and Cambodian troops also face off, about 20 Thai border rangers crossed 500 meters into Cambodian territory Tuesday morning before being stopped by RCAF troops, said Neak Vong, the RCAF deputy commander at the temple.
Thai troops had intended to make camp on high ground about 1 km from the temple, from where they could have easily surveyed much of the surrounding Cambodian territory, he said. The Thai troops pulled back after discussions, Neak Vong said.
Banteay Meanchey Provincial Deputy Governor Sok Sareth said by telephone that he had received reports of Thai tank movement about 8 or 9 km from the border inside Thailand, but added that this was not unusual or cause for concern.
The province’s police chief, Hun Hean, confirmed troop and truck movements on the Thai side but neither he nor deputy police chief Yourth Rai in Thmar Puok district had heard about movements of heavy armor.
(Additional reporting by Neou Vannarin and Isabelle Roughol in Phnom Penh)