CAMBODIAN and Thai officials are downplaying confrontations that saw tension flare this weekend between soldiers at two separate border hotspots.
Chhum Socheat, spokesman for the Defence Ministry, said Monday that 12 Thai soldiers who had settled in the Chak Chreng area, a few kilometres away from Preah Vihear temple, had agreed to leave after meetings with Cambodian military officials on Sunday afternoon.
The two sides had been engaged in a standoff since Friday, after the Thai soldiers refused to leave when asked by soldiers with the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, he said.
“This is not a tense confrontation,” Chhum Socheat said. “We have told them that that area cannot be settled, and they have promised not to stay there anymore.”
The situation also appears to have calmed along a border area in Oddar Meanchey’s O’Smach commune following an exchange of gunfire on Saturday, though Thai and Cambodian officials’ accounts differ on what sparked the clash.
THAI SOLDIERS ABSOLUTELY WERE INJURED DURING THE SHOOTING.
Cambodian officials said their soldiers were fired upon first, whereas Thai authorities said their troops were shot at while on patrol.
“They encountered a group of Cambodian soldiers and were fired upon, so they responded,” Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said Monday.
“In the end, I think, when things had died down and the shooting had finished, after the event both sides were in communication with each other to discuss what had transpired, and then they came to an understanding.”
Thani said there were no injuries, though Cambodian officials disputed that claim as well. Chhum Socheat said Cambodian soldiers found objects including a bloody cap belonging to a Thai soldier.
“Thai soldiers absolutely were injured during the shooting,” he said Monday.
Hean Sok, a military commander based in the area where the gunfire took place, said the situation appeared to be back to normal.
Meanwhile, Thai media reported that a soldier previously said to have been missing after the gunfight had been found. The Thai ranger had become lost sometime during the clash, the Bangkok Post reported Monday.
Royal Thai Army deputy spokesman Veerachon Sukondhadhpatipak said he could not confirm what happened to the soldier, but characterised this weekend’s disputes as a “misunderstanding”.
“Right now, the situation is back to normal,” he said, noting that Thai authorities were more preoccupied with the country’s internal unrest. He said tension with opposition Red Shirt protesters had not yet affected the number of troops Thailand has stationed along the border.