P REAH PRALAI-Cambodian and Thai army units stationed around Khmer Rouge
sanctuaries near this ill-defined border pass have been involved in an
The war of words-renewed charges of Thai complicity
with KR general Ta Mok's 990th division-is heating up as quickly as the shooting
Earlier this month two Thai rangers in civilian clothes were shot on
Hill 547 by Cambodian forces. Hill 547 is two kilometers inside Cambodia "but
now the Thai claim (it) is Thai territory," according to army deputy chief Lt
Gen Nhek Bunchay.
Thai retaliation was swift-155mm guns shelled
Cambodian forces that had been attacking a Khmer Rouge border base nestled just
a few kilometers from a Thai military deployment.
Commander-in-Chief Gen. Wimol Wonganich said 12 Cambodian soldiers were killed,
though the Cambodians only concede a body count of three.
regional military commander General Khann Savouern admitted that some Cambodian
shells had spilled over the border but maintained: "We don't want to make war
with Thailand but they should respect our territory.. we asked the Thai side to
expel the Khmer Rouge from the border area."
A Cambodian general said:
"The Khmer Rouge are in the middle, the Thai army is on one side and we are on
the other..... this is the problem."
The deteriorating relations, border
tensions and territorial disputes will be the forefront of talks at the end of
this month between co-Prime Minister Hun Sen and Thai Prime Minister Chuan
The Cambodia delegation will discuss continued reports of Thai
supplies, including ammunition, being given to the KR. The Thai will press Phnom
Penh to give a full account on the investigation into the Nov 21 murder of 22
Thai loggers in Preah Vihear.
The Cambodian investigation says that the
KR 612 division was clearly responsible, but the Thai embassy claims they have
never been given a copy of the investigation.
Gen Tieb Ry, who is basd
in Battambang and in charge of a special police combat battalion, said: "In
February the Khmer Rouge general in charge of 415 division in Pailin went to
Thailand and brought back supplies including ammunition."
He said that
the KR could buy anything from Thailand.
The murder of the Thai loggers
symbolizes the deep gulf of distrust between Thailand and Cambodia.
Thai military has stubbornly refused to entertain the Cambodian report that
claimed "clear and overwhelming" proof of KR guilt, the bulk of the proof based
on evidence of three Thai survivors. One of the survivors, Chan Chuathong - who
has previously worked with a Thai logging company that dealt with the Khmer
Rouge murder suspects - said he was "certain that it was the Khmer
Thailand second army region chief Gen Surayuth Junnanon said
there was no firm information that the Khmer Rouge was responsible. Wongwanich
failed to explain why he did not trust the eyewitness testimony of three Thai
citizens in a recent interview with the Bangkok Post.
However, a Khmer
Rouge defector in Siem Reap, Col Ith Som, said it was contrary to KR interests
to kill any Thai. "They depend on Thailand too much" and that the real motive
for the killings was "rivalry between the Thai-logging companies."
Cambodian investigation has limited itself to identifying the KR force that
perpetrated the massacre; it did not detail the tangled web of intrigue between
the logging companies, the KR, the Thai military and the business interests of
the Cambodian armed forces.
Analysts doubt whether Hun Sen's visit to
Bangkok can resolve the distrust around the BLP logging massacre and on-going
border clashes, at least till proper documentation of the investigation is given
to the Thais.
The border fighting also appears problematic given the Thai
stance that "the offensive against the Khmer Rouge is an internal matter for
A senior Bangkok intelligence official said: "By not aiding
Cambodian troops, it does not mean we are still supporting the Khmer Rouge."