ROYAL Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) Deputy Commander in Chief Chea Dara has again extolled the military’s prowess in its border standoff with Thai forces, and said that tensions nearly boiled over in February when Prime Minister Hun Sen paid a visit to disputed Preah Vihear temple.
“Thai soldiers always harassed us a lot, especially during Samdech [Hun Sen]’s visit to Preah Vihear,” Chea Dara told an audience of municipal officials at City Hall on Thursday. “They tried to harass us at every place Samdech [Hun Sen] was visiting.”
Chea Dara said he told Thai commanders to keep their distance and at certain points threatened to attack them.
“Samdech [Hun Sen] can go anywhere in Cambodian territory. You have no right to complain and to put conditions on his trip,” he said.
“I warned Thai military commanders [that] if they disagreed, I was ready to attack. If I could not solve this, my rank would disappear from my shoulder, but before I lose it I would attack you first.”
In recent speeches, Chea Dara has declared “victory” for Cambodia in its dispute with Thailand. He has also said that Cambodian troops have killed 88 Thai troops since tensions erupted after the listing of Preah Vihear temple as a UNESCO World Heritage site in July 2008.
On Thursday, Chea Dara struck a more conciliatory note, saying that Thai government officials had been friendly in welcoming Prime Minister Hun Sen to the country during last week’s Mekong River Commission summit in Hua Hin.
Ket Siviny, a City Hall official who attended the speech, said it was good to receive news about the situation at the border.
“All attendants were very keen to listen to Chea Dara’s comments about the border. It is good to know the weak and strong points at the border,” he said.
Yim Phim, commander of RCAF Brigade 8, which is stationed near Preah Vihear temple, said the situation at the border was normal and that soldiers were in good spirits with the approach of the Khmer New Year holiday.