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General claims victory in Thai border conflict

General claims victory in Thai border conflict

A SENIOR military commander said Tuesday that Cambodia has prevailed on both the military and diplomatic fronts in its standoff with Thailand over disputed land near Preah Vihear temple.

“I am here to tell you all about our victory against the Thai soldiers on the battlefield. We are the winner, and we won both the battlefield and diplomatic fight under Samdech Hun Sen’s leadership,” said General Chea Dara, deputy commander in chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), in remarks before more than 1,000 students, teachers and officials at the National Institute of Education.

Chea Dara also hailed the construction of roads close to the temple, which he said had facilitated the movement of troops and allowed more Cambodians to settle in border areas.

“Fifty percent of the Thai soldiers were withdrawn recently to Bangkok to solve their internal issues, and they will not dare to attack Cambodian soldiers again,” he said.

Fighting near Preah Vihear has claimed at least seven lives from both sides since July 2008, when tensions over the temple’s listing as a UNESCO World Heritage site erupted. Chea Dara claimed last week, however, that 88 Thai troops had been killed in fighting since 2008.

Rath Huot, deputy director of the National Institute of Education, said after Tuesday’s speech that he was very glad to hear directly from Chea Dara about progress at Preah Vihear and the situation on the front line, adding, “It is useful for students and teachers here to learn it.”

Chea Dara also raised accusations that opposition leader Sam Rainsy had aided the Thai military during the recent standoff. “[Sam Rainsy] met Thai officials, and he passed the sword to Thai officials against Hun Sen,” he said. He did not add any other details about the alleged meetings.

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann dismissed that claim outright. “We Cambodians do not contact any country to mistreat Cambodians and fight against Cambodians. Sam Rainsy was voted for by Cambodians; he has served Cambodians and does not serve foreigners.”

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