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Dispute spreading along border

Dispute spreading along border

Thai soldiers are demanding Cambodia cede land in Pursat province

HIGH-LEVEL negotiations are over and the political mudslinging has shifted up a gear, with Prime Minister Hun Sen labelling Thai soldiers "thieves" for their encroachment on the Kingdom's territory. On the ground, the military standoff between Cambodia and Thailand is spreading, and fast.

Having flared up over the Unesco-listed Preah Vihear temple, the dispute raced through Oddar Meanchey's Ta Moan Thom, Ta Moan Touch and Ta Krabey temples, and has now reached O'Plok Damrey in Veal Veng district, Pursat province, military officials say.

"Thai soldiers came to see our soldiers and told them to remove the fence along the border and withdraw our troops back inside Cambodia," said Ek Sam On, deputy commander of Military Region 5, which covers Pursat, Pailin, Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces.

"Our soldiers are simply stationed along our border to protect it, we are not sure why the Thais have demanded that we withdraw from the area and remove the [10-year-old] border fence. It is an unreasonable request," Ek Sam On added.

Oun Yong, Veal Veng district's governor, said Tuesday that unless the Cambodian government ordered a troop withdrawal, soldiers would remain in their positions.

An RCAF commander from Military Region 5, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that more troops were being sent to the area as reinforcements for those already on this "new front line". Military commanders are travelling to the area to check on the situation, he said. 

More meetings between Thai and Cambodian military border commanders will start today, according to Ho Bunthy, deputy commander of Border Military Unit 402.

He added he had little hope of negotiations bringing any solution, saying, "I do not believe the Thai military commanders because ... they have never kept their promises."

Thai embassy officials refused to comment.

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