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Soldiers join battle over net

PREAH VIHEAR PROVINCE

THAI and Cambodian soldiers donned uniforms of a different kind as they met for a friendly game of volleyball along their disputed border near Preah Vihear province’s Choam Ksan district on Wednesday, while military commanders from the two forces met for talks aimed at easing tensions on the front.

Senior military officials, including Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Division 3 commander Srey Doek, met with their Thai counterparts at the event and vowed to work together to peacefully resolve any future disputes, provincial officials said.

“We are relying on negotiations to solve the border problem – we don’t want fighting or loss of life,” said Sor Thavy, deputy governor of Preah Vihear province.

Such resolutions have typically followed the periodic outbreak of hostilities along the border. The most recent of these incidents occurred last month, when Cambodian and Thai troops briefly exchanged fire along the border near Oddar Meanchey province’s O’Smach commune.

Away from the commanders’ negotiations, Thai and Cambodian troops squared off in a hard-fought but good-natured volleyball match.

The blue-clad RCAF troops held the net aggressively, blocking spike after spike. Their equally impressive serving performance helped Team Cambodia start the game with a slew of unanswered points, paving the way for a 25-11 victory in the first set.

The second set saw the Thais step up the aggression, with furious rallies between the two squads extending much longer than anything seen in the first set. Crowd members urged the teams on, and ultimately the Cambodian side prevailed once again.

Sticking with their set-spike strategy, the Cambodian troops sealed their 25-13 victory in the second set.

Following the match, the two teams met at the net to congratulate one another and exchange gifts before enjoying lunch together. Leu Chandara, deputy chief of the Cambodia-Thailand relations office at the Poipet border crossing, pronounced the event a resounding success.

“If there is any disagreement at the border, let the border committees solve it in a peaceful way, not through violence and military clashes,” he said.

A similar event took place last week, when Thai government officials and military officers travelled from Sisaket province to Oddar Meanchey province’s Anlong Veng district for a day of friendly athletic competition.

Anlong Veng district Governor Yim Phanna said around 200 Thai civil servants took part in the event, along with around 300 of their Cambodian counterparts.

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