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Bid to damp down border tension

Bid to damp down border tension

A Cambodian soldier plays a game on his phone while on duty close to Preah Vihear temple in February last year.

Military commanders from Cambodia and Thailand held meetings along the border today in a bid to defuse a spike in military tensions, a military official said.

In recent days, Cambodia has deployed infantry, tanks and heavy artillery along the Thai border in response to a demand from Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva that Cambodian flags be removed from Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvara, a pagoda close to Preah Vihear.

A Royal Cambodian Armed Forces official based at Preah Vihear, who declined to be named, said today that military commanders based at Phnom Trop and Ta Thav met to affirm their positions and damp down tensions.

“The situation is fragile, as troops from both sides are on alert,” he said, adding: “We have reinforced our troops only for defending our territory.”

The official said that during the talks, Thai commanders asked why Cambodia had moved troops into border areas.

The Cambodian commanders said the movements were in response to Abhisit’s demands for the removal of the flags, as well as the apparent Thai plans to hold military exercises close to the border.

“We will not allow them to enter Cambodian soil to remove the flags,” the official said. “Thailand has added troops and heavy weapons along the border and we have acted in kind.”

Srey Doek, military commander of RCAF Military Division 3 based at Preah Vihear, declined to comment.

Thai Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said today that the fresh deployments of Cambodian troops and armour in border areas adjoining Sisaket province were no cause for worry, the Bangkok Post reported.

“I believe there are no serious problems on the Thai-Cambodian border,” Prawit said.

“The Foreign Ministry should be able settle the dispute through talks.”

The military talks come a day ahead of the trial at Phnom Penh Municipal Court of Veera Somkwamkid, a high-profile Thai Yellow Shirt activist, and his secretary Ratree Taiputana Taiboon.

The pair were part of a group of seven Thais who were arrested for trespassing on Cambodian territory in Banteay Meanchey province on December 29.

The group reportedly travelled to the border to “investigate” the demarcation of the countries’ shared border.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, who met with Yellow Shirt representatives today in Phnom Penh, confirmed that Veera will face court today.

He added that he was powerless to act on requests that he intervene to free the two defendants.

“We cannot do anything before the court proceeding as it is illegal,” he said.

“The government cannot interfere with the court’s affairs.”


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