Sunday, October 26, 2008

October 24, 2008; Thailand and Cambodia Resolve Border Conflict






BEIJING - Thailand and Cambodia resolved tensions on Friday, putting recent clashes along their disputed border behind them and agreeing to breathe fresh life into long-standing efforts to settle the problem for good.

The leaders of the two Southeast Asian governments met on the sidelines of an Asia-Europe summit in Beijing.

"We are not just neighbors, we are very good friends indeed," Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornwiwat told reporters after the meeting between Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat and his Cambodian counterpart, Hun Sen.

"His Excellency Hun Sen said the incident that already happened is not the kind that both countries want. It happened instantly. That was uncontrollable at the time. But when things come to this point, the two sides have to advise our troops not to have confrontation any longer."

A Thai soldier died on Tuesday from wounds sustained in the latest flare-up on October 15 near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple, which is claimed by both countries. Three Cambodian soldiers were also killed.

The confrontation was the most serious border clash in years, although tensions have now eased.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters the two sides had agreed to use "existing mechanisms" to solve the border problem.

He pointed to talks this week between military commanders from the two countries to demonstrate progress, adding: "Already, we have had very good results over this question."

MILITARY MEETING

The senior military officials met in Siem Reap, site of Cambodia's Angkor temple, to discuss the fighting and other border issues. Customs and immigration officials from the two sides also attended.

In a statement on Friday after that meeting ended, the Thai military said it had achieved its objectives, namely "to develop a good understanding and relationship between the armed forces with a view to easing tension in the border areas."

It said the meeting had discussed how to deal with the narcotics trade, among other things.

Under the Thai constitution, any agreement reached by the government with another state needs parliamentary approval. The army statement said October 28 had been earmarked for parliament to debate border matters, a date mentioned by Sompong in Beijing.

Sompong also said the two countries had to work together to demine the border area.

Cambodia's foreign ministry urged Thailand to stick to existing deals on the border issue, including agreement on where certain parts of the frontier lie and a framework to demarcate the rest of border.

"Cambodia remains fully committed to not encroaching on any inch of Thai territory and would be very pleased if Thailand responded with the same commitment," it said in a statement sent to Thailand's foreign ministry and seen by Reporters on Friday.

The hilltop Preah Vihear temple has stirred nationalist passions in both countries for generations.

The International Court of Justice awarded it to Cambodia in 1962, a ruling that has rankled in Thailand ever since. It did not determine the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the Hindu ruins.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

October 18, 2008; Thai PM seeks direct talks over Cambodia border row

KANTARALAK, Thailand - Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat said on Saturday he would seek face-to-face talks with Cambodian leader Hun Sen after a border clash near a 900-year-old temple this week.

"I am looking for the right time to talk with him. We should have an opportunity to talk," Somchai told reporters after visiting Thai troops facing Cambodian forces along the border.

The Thai leader echoed Hun Sen's comments on Friday that outside mediation was not needed to resolve the dispute.

"This is an issue between Thailand and Cambodia. We should not let other countries get involved," Somchai said.

Both sides have sought to ease tensions since three Cambodian soldiers were killed in Wednesday's 40-minute firefight. Two Cambodians and seven Thais were wounded.

On Saturday, a Thai soldier died after slipping while on patrol and accidently shooting himself, an army spokesman said.

The armies have agreed to conduct joint border patrols and to hold more talks on reducing their forces around the Hindu temple, a source of border tension for generations.

Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge commander who has ruled Cambodia for more than two decades, said on Friday the stand-off would not escalate into a wider and more serious conflict.

Some analysts link the eruption of fighting on the border to the political instability that has roiled Thailand for the past three years, and reached another climax this week when Somchai faced calls from his own generals to quit.

Army chief Anupong Paochinda's televised interview on Thursday, in which he said Somchai should step down after bloody clashes between police and anti-government protesters last week, ignited fresh coup rumours two years after former premier Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted in a bloodless putsch.

But Somchai refused on Friday to resign or call a snap election, saying Anupong was expressing "one opinion".

Somchai said an investigation of the Oct. 7 street clash, which killed two protesters and injured nearly 500, would be completed in 15 days and decide who was responsible.

Analysts read Anupong's remarks as an attempt by the army, which is under pressure from the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), to undermine Somchai so much that he jumps without the need for a full-blown coup.

"As expected, (Somchai's) response puts the ball straight back in the military's court," the Nation newspaper said in an editorial on Saturday.

Somchai, Thaksin's brother-in-law and a political novice, came to power in September after a court removed his predecessor, Samak Sundaravej, for hosting a cooking show on commercial television while in office.

The political crisis dates back to 2005 when the PAD, which has the explicit backing of Queen Sirikit, launched street protests against Thaksin. It has meandered through a coup to elections and back to protests and shows no signs of resolution.

Even if Somchai did call a snap election, lingering rural support for Thaksin would be likely to return a broadly pro-Thaksin government, putting it on a collision course once again with the royalist and military elite in Bangkok.

Friday, October 17, 2008

October 17, 2008; PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia




Thai and Cambodian army commanders ended five hours of talks on Thursday with no agreement to withdraw their forces after heavy fighting near a disputed 900-year-old temple killed two Cambodian soldiers.

"We did not make much progress. Troops on both sides will stay where they are," Thai General Wiboonsak Neeparn told reporters after returning to the Thai side of the border.

He said they had agreed on joint border patrols to ease tensions after Wednesday's 40-minute gun and rocket battle, the worst clash in years between the fractious Southeast Asian neighbors.

His Cambodian counterpart, General Srey Doek, denied any deal over the site, where soldiers backed by armor and artillery faced off in an area controlled a decade ago by remnants of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot's guerrilla army.

Ten Thai soldiers, whom Phnom Penh said had been captured, wandered freely in their midst and denied they had ever been taken prisoner.

"We drank coffee and watched the TV news together last night," one of them, Apichart Pupuak, told reporters in Thailand by phone.

"Our policy to resolve this conflict is through negotiations," Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat said.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has kept silent, but his foreign minister urged negotiations, saying the incident was between soldiers and "not an invasion by Thailand."

But people on the streets of Phnom Penh were angry.

"We need to defend our land. We must not lose to the Thais," said security guard Bun Roeun, 36, flicking through newspaper reports of the clashes. "If the Thais continue their attempt to cross our border, I am ready to join the army to fight back."

"It's hard to see how Cambodia gains from starting a war with Thailand at this point," said Tony Kevin, a former Australian ambassador to Phnom Penh.

"But if you look at the very tense and riven state of Thai politics, it's easy to see how a Cambodian war could be of interest as a distraction," he said.

China and the United States expressed concern over the violence and urged both sides to use restraint.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

October 16, 2008; Images of Cambodia-Thailand Border Region













October 16, 2008; Images of Cambodia-Thailand Border Region


Cambodian soldiers stand guard near the site where two soldiers were killed during an exchange of gunfire between Cambodia and Thai troops on Wednesday, at Sraem village in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh October 16, 2008.

October 16, 2008; Images of Cambodia-Thailand Border Region



Thai soldiers stand guard next to barbwire at a checkpoint in the disputed border area with Cambodia, near the Preah Vihear temple, in Si Sa Ket province, northeast of Bangkok.

October 16, 2008; DISPUTE Cambodia and Thailand

The International Court of Justice awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, a ruling that has rankled Thais ever since.

However, it failed to determine the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the stunning but remote Hindu ruins, which have been off-limits to tourists for months.

The dispute over this small parcel of land became highly politicized in Thailand in July when protesters trying to overthrow the Bangkok government adopted it as a cause.

Some 2,000 soldiers faced off only yards apart in trenches dug into a hillside that 10 years ago was controlled by remnants of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot's guerrilla army.

In Anlong Veng, the site of Pol Pot's grave and about 100 kms (60 miles) west of the temple, the main road was clogged by hundreds of Cambodians on motorbikes and small tractors laden with chairs, pots and other belongings.

At the temple, three armored vehicles and five trucks arrive loaded with Cambodian troops.

There has been no word on the exchange of 10 Thai prisoners at the temple, whose existence Bangkok continues to deny.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said the group, who were photographed by a reporter under Cambodian guard, would be treated properly and returned to Thailand if Bangkok requested.

Bangkok has urged its citizens to leave Cambodia, mindful of the 2003 torching of its embassy and Thai businesses in Phnom Penh by a nationalist mob incensed by a row over Angkor Wat, another ancient temple.

In 2003, Thai commandos flew into Phnom Penh airport in the middle of the night to help evacuate 600 Thais during the riots.

Security was beefed up outside the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, but there were no crowds outside and it was operating as normal, a Thai official told reporters.

Several big Thai companies have operations in Cambodia and some began evacuating their staff Wednesday, but flights between the neighbors continued as normal.

Thailand's political crisis has damaged consumer confidence and consumption at a time when exports are sluggish due to the global economic slowdown.

A top adviser to Thailand's finance minister said on Wednesday the country risked sinking into recession in the first half of 2009 if the political stalemate did not end soon.

October 16, 2008; Preah Vihear, The Clash

PREAH VIHEAR - Thai and Cambodian army commanders held talks across their disputed border Thursday after the most serious clash in years killed two Cambodian soldiers and left 10 Thais in Cambodian hands.

Hundreds of Cambodian civilians fled the border area after Wednesday's 40-minute exchange of rocket and gunfire, as both sides rushed armor and troops to the conflict zone.

"Our policy to resolve this conflict is through negotiations," Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat told reporters in Bangkok as the talks got under way near the temple.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has said nothing since the clash, in which two Cambodians and five Thais were wounded. His foreign minister said it was "not an invasion by Thailand."

But people on the streets of Phnom Penh were angry.

"We need to defend our land. We must not lose to the Thais," said security guard Bun Roeun, 36, flicking through newspaper reports of the clashes. "If the Thais continue their attempt to cross our border, I am ready to join the army to fight back."

The confrontation comes amid great political instability and an economic slowdown in Thailand, as protesters in a long-running Bangkok street campaign urge the army to launch a coup against the elected government.

"It's hard to see how Cambodia gains from starting a war with Thailand at this point," said Tony Kevin, a former Australian ambassador to Phnom Penh.

"But if you look at the very tense and riven state of Thai politics, it's easy to see how a Cambodian war could be of interest as a distraction," he said.

October 16, 2008; Stung Cambodians say ready to take on Thailand

PHNOM PENH - An eruption of fighting on the Thai-Cambodian border triggered a wave of patriotism in the Cambodian capital on Thursday, with many ordinary people saying they were willing to take up arms to protect their country.

"We need to defend our land. We must not lose to the Thais," security guard Bun Roeun, 36, said as he sat at a street-side stall, flicking through newspapers plastered with coverage of Wednesday's clashes near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple.

"If the Thais continue their attempt to cross our border, I am ready to join the army to fight back," he said.

After eight centuries of decline, from the mighty Khmer empire that built Angkor Wat and dominated the region to a small, war-scarred nation sandwiched between Thailand and Vietnam, Cambodians are very touchy about their territory.

The country's precise area -- 181,035 square km -- is drummed into every schoolchild, and any perceived squeezing of its borders is taken as a personal affront by many of its 13 million people.

"You have to defend your house," said 48-year-old motorbike taxi driver Chea Sokean, 48. "If the Thai troops want to steal our house, we have to chase them away."

"We can't stand and watch the Thai army take our land," another 48-year-old, Yos Kan, said.

Such sentiments limit the room for manoeuvre for Prime Minister Hun Sen, even though the wily former Khmer Rouge guerrilla won an election landslide in July to add to his two decades in power.

Newspapers were awash with the Cambodian claims of Thai aggression -- just as Thai papers were awash with the exact opposite -- and Kampuchea Thmei (New Cambodia) ran an editorial headlined "Ready for Sacrifice".

Phnom Penh has admitted that two of its soldiers died in the fighting. Both sides are sending reinforcements in the form of armour and artillery to the border, raising fears of an escalating and wider conflict.

However, Rasmei Kampuchea, Cambodia's largest circulation paper, also ran a front-page government appeal for Thai businesses and people to be left alone in the capital.

The exhortation is a far cry from 2003, when a nationalist mob torched the Thai embassy and around a dozen Thai businesses in Phnom Penh in a row over Angkor Wat, Cambodia's most potent national symbol.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

October 15, 2008; Border Army







October 15, 2008; Accusation Fly, Cambodia Thailand Border Conflict

Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat urged Thais in Cambodia to leave at once, mindful of the 2003 torching of the embassy and Thai businesses in Phnom Penh by a nationalist mob incensed by a row over Angkor Wat, another ancient temple.

"Thai businessmen who have no need to be in Cambodia now, please rush back to Thailand," he told reporters, adding that the military had an evacuation plan ready if needed.

In 2003, Thai commandos flew into Phnom Penh airport in the middle of the night to help evacuate 600 Thais during the riots.

Security was beefed up outside the embassy, with 20 military police armed with assault rifles standing guard.

As with other less serious clashes along the border in the past four months, each side accused the other of aggression.

On Monday, Hun Sen said a small group of Thai soldiers had strayed onto Cambodian soil and he threatened to turn the area into a "death zone" unless they withdrew by midday on Tuesday.

Singapore and Indonesia have asked both sides to show restraint.

October 15, 2008; PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia

Rockets, small arms fired across border. Seven Thais/Cambodians wounded. Thailand urges nationals to leave Cambodia.

Thai and Cambodian troops fired rockets and small arms at each other on a disputed stretch of border on Wednesday, killing two Cambodians and prompting Bangkok to tell its citizens to return home.

Both sides accused each other of firing first in the clash, which comes amid huge political instability in Bangkok, with protesters in a long-running street campaign urging the army to launch a coup against the elected government.

Two Cambodians were killed, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said, and at least seven soldiers from both sides were wounded in the most serious incident in four months of tension at the Preah Vihear temple.

Hor Namhong said a scheduled meeting between the two countries on the border dispute would go ahead as planned on Thursday, suggesting that escalation was not inevitable.

"It is a good sign that we can start to solve this conflict," he told reporters. "We consider this an incident between soldiers and not an invasion by Thailand."

Cambodia's army had captured 10 Thai soldiers, Hor Namhong told a news conference in Phnom Penh.

"The prime minister has ordered that the 10 soldiers be treated well," he said, adding that they would be returned to Thailand if Bangkok requested.

The Thai military said no soldiers were missing.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen huddled in an emergency meeting with government and military chiefs to determine a response to the fighting around the monument, a source of tension between the two southeast Asian nations for more than a century.

The site is 600 km (370 miles) east of Bangkok and few foreign tourists venture there, especially after the tension of recent months.

The International Court of Justice awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962 but it failed to determine ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the ruins.

This small parcel of land became highly politicised in July when the Thai anti-government movement adopted it as a cause, whipping up a torrent of nationalism.

Within days, 2,000 soldiers were facing off in trenches dug into a hillside that until 10 years ago was under the control of remnants of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot's guerrilla army.

"The Thai military are very much under pressure to protect the national sovereignty and territory," Panitan Wattanayagorn, a military analyst at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University said.

However, he also said that Hun Sen, a wily former Khmer Rouge soldier, was just as likely to be trying to steal a march against his larger neighbour in the middle of its political turmoil.

October 14, 2008; Thailand sends more troops to Cambodian border

BANGKOK/PHNOM PENH - Thailand sent more soldiers to a disputed stretch of the Cambodian border near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple on Tuesday, a Thai general said, hours after a Cambodian general said Thai troops had pulled back. Eastern Region Commander Vibulsak Neepan said troops from both sides had retreated slightly but were facing off about 100 metres apart and Bangkok was sending in reinforcements in case the dispute escalated. "The situation is quite tense at the front line," Lieutenant-General Vibulsak told Channel 3 television. "We have mobilised more troops and heavy artillery to the area, just enough to resist and retaliate."`His comments came shortly after Cambodian commander General Chea Mon told Reporters by telephone from the border that nearly 100 Thai soldiers alleged to have made an incursion onto Cambodian soil had retreated. "The situation seems to have returned to normal," he said. "Our troops are occupying the area where the Thai troops have pulled out." Vibulsak admitted Thai soldiers had entered a disputed "no-man's land" on the border after getting permission from the Cambodian side, as is normally required, but said they were only there to inspect landmines. On Monday, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen threatened to turn the area into a "death zone" unless the Thais retreated by midday Tuesday (0500 GMT). The Thai military said it was ready for war and the Foreign Ministry told Thais to "think twice" before visiting Cambodia, only fives years after a nationalist mob torched the embassy in Phnom Penh in an argument about another ancient Hindu temple. Singapore and Indonesia asked both sides to show restraint. Tensions have been high since July, when 2,000 soldiers faced off only yards apart in trenches dug into a hillside that until 10 years ago was under the control of remnants of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot's guerrilla army. At the heart of the dispute is 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub near the temple, which the International Court of Justice awarded to Cambodia in 1962, a ruling that has rankled in Thailand ever since. The dispute flared in July after protesters trying to overthrow the Thai government attacked Bangkok's backing of Phnom Penh's bid to list the Hindu ruins as a World Heritage site.

T V - October 14, 2008; Thailand says its 'ready for war'

Monday, October 13, 2008

October 13, 2008; The Meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Phnom Penh, Cambodia






Thailand's Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat is in Cambodia for a one-day official visit and to discuss the border dispute issue. Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks to the media after a meeting with Thailand's Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Phnom Penh. Cambodia accused Thailand on Monday of trying to send troops across their disputed border, warning that such a provocation could eventually lead to "large scale conflict".

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

October 8, 2008; Cambodia Rice Farming




Cambodia's economy was devastated by civil war from the 1970s to the late 1990s, including four years under Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge, whose dream of transforming the country into a great rice power ended in the nightmare of the "Killing Fields". Now another agrarian revolution is under way as the government seeks to boost rice and cut poverty among its 14 million people. The key is better irrigation and fertilizer.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

T V - October 7, 2008; Thai Clashes


Thailand's deputy Prime Minister resigns after accepting responsibility for clashes between police and anti-government protesters.

Deputy Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh's resignation is a further blow to Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat who has struggled to defuse a four-month street campaign against his government. Yongchaiyudh was the government's top negotiator with the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), a coalition group that accuses Wongsawat of being a political proxy for former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Monday, October 6, 2008

October 5, 2008; Thailand says Cambodia fired first in border clash


BANGKOK - Thailand accused Cambodia on Sunday of firing the first shots in a border incident in which three soldiers were wounded, saying it was "a brutal and aggressive act" that had violated friendly relations.

In a letter to the Cambodian government, Thailand's foreign ministry demanded Phnom Penh ensure there is no repeat of the incident near the disputed 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple.

"The shooting by the Cambodian troops against the unarmed Thai paramilitary rangers is regarded as a brutal and aggressive act and is contrary to the spirit of friendly relations between Cambodia and Thailand," the letter said.

Cambodia issued a similar protest on Saturday, accusing Thailand of "intentional armed provocation" and warning it could lead to conflict.

Two Thai soldiers and one Cambodian soldier were injured in what was the first clash in the disputed territory since the two countries agreed to pull back troops in August after a tense month-long stand-off.

Each country has accused the other of encroaching on its territory.

Foreign ministers of the often fractious southeast Asian neighbours agreed in July to find a peaceful end to the diplomatic and military spat, which centres on 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub near the temple.

Both sides have claimed Preah Vihear for decades. The International Court of Justice awarded it to Cambodia in 1962 and the ruling has rankled in Thailand ever since.

The row earlier this year was sparked by protesters seeking to overthrow the Thai government, who attacked Bangkok's backing of Cambodia's bid to list Preah Vihear as a United Nations World Heritage site.

Political elements on both sides fuelled the conflict for their own ends, but tensions eased considerably after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's victory in a general election in late July in which the temple, and nationalism, featured heavily.

October 4, 2008; Cambodia warns Thailand after border clash

PHNOM PENH - Cambodia protested to Thailand on Saturday about a border shooting incident in which three solders were wounded and said in a letter to the Thai ambassador that such "intentional armed provocation" could lead to conflict.

However, Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith told Reporters Phnom Penh had agreed to an investigation at the border into Friday's exchange of fire and Thailand's foreign ministry said the situation was calm.

Two Thai soldiers and one Cambodian soldier were injured in what was the first clash in the disputed territory near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple since the two countries agreed to pull back in August after a serious confrontation.

Each country has accused the other of encroaching on its territory and said troops from the other side fired first.

Cambodia's Foreign Ministry sent a letter of protest to the Thai ambassador on Saturday.

"Such armed provocation by Thai soldiers could lead to very grave consequences, including full-scale armed hostility which would adversely affect the present efforts of the two governments to seek a peaceful and amicable solution to the current border problems,".

For its part, Thailand's Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued late on Friday that the situation had returned to normal.

The Thai military immediately initiated high-level contact with Cambodian counterparts about the incident.

"The Cambodian side agreed to investigate the matter and reaffirmed that the incident would be contained without any further armed confrontation," the Thai ministry statement said.

"The Cambodian side also affirmed that it would coordinate more closely with the Thai side to prevent any recurrence of similar incidents."

Political elements on both sides fueled the conflict for their own ends, but tensions eased considerably after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's victory in a general election in late July in which the temple, and nationalism, featured heavily.

October 3, 2008 - Thai-Cambodian clash wounds 3 near disputed temple

BANGKOK - Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged fire briefly on Friday near the disputed 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple, wounding at least two Thai soldiers and one Cambodian, troop commanders of the two countries said.

Lieutenant General Viboonsak Neepan, head of the Thai eastern army, said his troops had fired warning shots into the air when 20 patrolling Cambodian soldiers entered Thai territory, but they returned fire, leading to a brief exchange.

"We have pushed them back into their side," Viboonsak said.

"It is not clear if they intended to enter Thai territory since the area there is densely covered by trees," he said, confirming that two Thai soldiers had been wounded.

It was the first clash since the two sides agreed in August to withdraw most of the 1,000 troops facing off for a month near the historic Hindu ruins that sit on the jungle-clad escarpment dividing the countries.

General Chea Mon, Cambodia's military commander at Preah Vihear, said there had been "two short rounds of gunfire" at the border, and at least one Cambodian soldier was wounded.

"We don't know why the Thais opened fire first," Chea Mon said.

Tensions have eased considerably since Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's victory in late July in a general election in which the temple, and nationalism, featured heavily.

Both sides have claimed Preah Vihear for decades. The International Court of Justice awarded it to Cambodia in 1962, and the ruling has rankled in Thailand ever since.

Cambodian Army at Preah Virhear! Part 1

Cambodian Army at Preah Virhear! Part 2

Thai Army at Preah Virhear!

Khmer-World TV

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