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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Accusations fly over new skirmish

Accusations fly over new skirmish

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong speaks to reporters following his return from the United States today.

Cambodia and Thailand today accused each other of violating a permanent ceasefire proposed by the United Nations Security Council on Monday, both pointing the finger for a series of skirmishes late on Tuesday and early this morning.

Speaking to reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport after returning from New York, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong alleged Thailand opened fire on Cambodian positions with mortars and grenades.

“This is a violation [of the ceasefire],” Hor Namhong said.

“The shooting last night and this morning abused the recommendations of the UNSC.”

In its session on Monday, the 15-member council urged the two parties to “exercise maximum constraint” while continuing to work through bilateral and regional channels to solve the dispute.

It rejected Cambodia’s call to deploy UN peacekeepers and urged both sides to honour the ceasefire.

At least 10 people were killed and dozens injured on both sides during four days of clashes close to Preah Vihear temple during February 4-7.

The skirmishes were just the latest in a series of firefights that have broken out in the area sporadically since July 2008, when UNESCO listed Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site.

In a statement today, the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Thai forces fired grenades and 81mm mortars into the Phnom Trop area close to Preah Vihear between 9:00pm on Tuesday and 5:00am yesterday.

It said Thai troops were injured when their grenades hit tree branches and bounced back towards their positions.

“This violation of the ceasefire by Thai armed forces clearly shows that the real intention behind Thailand’s insistence on resolving the matter bilaterally is to use its overwhelming superior military forces to take over Cambodian territory in the vicinity of the temple of Preah Vihear,” read the statement.

It added that Cambodian troops did not respond to the Thai “provocation”.

Thailand has also accused Cambodia of triggering the skirmish.

Sansern Kaewkamnerd, spokesman for the Royal Thai Army, said today that Cambodian soldiers initiated a series of attacks against a Thai outpost at Phu Ma Khua but were repulsed, according to a report in the Bangkok Post. There were no casualties, he said.

The Nation reported that five Thai soldiers were injured during a skirmish that lasted from 5:00am to 7:30am this morning.

One of them was seriously wounded and was rushed to a hospital in nearby province of Ubon Ratchathani, the paper reported.

Hor Namhong said that at the upcoming ASEAN foreign ministers meeting, to be held in Jakarta on Tuesday, he will request that the bloc send observers to guarantee the ceasefire.

“When there is the meeting in Jakarta, I will request observers from ASEAN to monitor the ceasefire.

“Whether Thailand accepts or not we will see,” he said.

“Thailand accused Cambodia of invading them and opening fire first at them so why is Thailand afraid of receiving observers.”

Following the clashes today, military commanders from both sides met for about two hours at Phnom Trop, agreeing on seven points including a cessation of nighttime attacks, according to one soldier who gave his name only as Chamroeun.

“It is hard to believe the Thai side,” he said. “They are unfaithful.”

Following the recent border flare-up, the UN has withdrawn six staff from Koh Kong town, around eight kilometres from the Thai border, according to an internal email obtained today.

“Kindly be advised that travel to Koh Kong is currently restricted for all UN staff until further notice,” the email stated, adding that up to 70 percent of the town’s population had left due to recent tensions.

A UN spokesman said today that the organisation does not comment on staff security and safety. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY REUTERS



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