Sunday, April 24, 2011

April 25, 2011; After three days of jungle clashes between Cambodia and Thailand troops

At the center of the latest dispute are two 12th-Century stone-walled Hindu temples, Ta Moan and Ta Krabey, in a heavily mined jungle area claimed by both sides. Fighting late on Sunday killed a Thai soldier, bringing the official death since Friday to five Thai soldiers and 25 wounded, and six Cambodians killed and 17 wounded. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged "serious dialogue" to produce an "effective and verifiable" ceasefire and halt the grenade and artillery bombardments. Although on the surface the renewed fighting appears to be a dispute over sovereignty, many experts are skeptical and suggest either government may have started the clashes to discredit the other or to appeal to nationalists at home.


Cambodia and Thailand battled for more than three hours from late Sunday morning and pounded each other with mortars and artillery, sending hundreds of villagers fleeing or into hiding in makeshift bomb shelters. In Ban Nongkana, 7 km (4 miles) from Ta Moan, villagers scurried for cover, bundling belongings into pickup trucks. Soldiers carried the elderly to safety. The dispute over jurisdiction has persisted since the 1950s, when colonial power France pulled out of Cambodia. Thailand's Foreign Ministry issued a statement late on Sunday accusing Cambodia of firing heavy weapons to pave the way for an attempted invasion by ground troops into Thai territory to "seize and take control" of Ta Moan. It said Thailand responded "proportionally" after its troops and nearby villages came under attack, a similar claim made by Cambodia, which accused Thailand of trying to force it into bilateral talks. The fighting broke a fragile peace deal agreed after 11 troops and scores of civilians were wounded in February 4-7 clashes 150 km (90 miles) away, near Preah Vihear, another temple both sides have long fought for on the battlefield and in the courts.

An international court ruling awarded Preah Vihear to Cambodia in 1962.

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