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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Detente restored after Thai apology for artillery fire

Detente restored after Thai apology for artillery fire

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090223_03.jpg

Photo by:
HENG CHIVOAN

Thai army Deputy Commander-in-Chief Jeradej Kotcharat arrives in Phnom Penh. 

THE Foreign Ministry has said it would not file a formal complaint against Thailand to protest an incident last week in which several shells fired by Thai troops landed on Cambodian territory.

A Thai delegation arrived in Phnom Penh on Friday to apologise for the episode.

Koy Kuong, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the Post Sunday that the retraction followed a successful meeting between the Thai delegation and Cambodian officials.

"The incident did not cause deaths amongst our people or damage to property," he said. "[Thailand] has shown it is taking responsibility."

In the incident Tuesday, at least eight mortar shells landed two kilometres inside Oddar Meanchey province in northwestern Cambodia. The shells were fired by Thai soldiers during a military training exercise near the disputed border between the two countries.   

That prompted a letter of apology on Thursday from Thai army commander-in-chief, General Anupong Paojinda, to General Meas Sophea, the deputy commander-in-chief and head of the army of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, according to a Foreign Ministry statement.

"I would like to reassure you that we will use all means to prevent such an incident from happening again in the future," the statement quotes General Anupong as saying.

After meeting the Thai delegation on Friday, Prime Minister Hun Sen urged his neighbour to investigate the matter, but, otherwise, assumed a conciliatory tone.

"Thailand asked to apologise for this unintentional incident and promised that it will not happen again," Hun Sen told reporters after meeting with Thai army Deputy Commander-in-Chief Jeradej Kotcharat.

Cambodian and Thai soldiers have been deployed along the border since mid-July last year after Preah Vihear temple was listed as a Unesco World Heritage site. Thailand has long contested that Preah Vihear temple belongs to Cambodia. Tensions ratcheted higher as last year drew to a close. In the most serious incident, armed clashes at Preah Vihear temple between both sides in mid-October caused the deaths of four soldiers.

Hun Sen will meet Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva this week for bilateral discussions about the border dispute while both attend the Asean Summit in Hua Hin, Thailand.

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