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Ministry says Thai delegation to apologise for artillery fire

Ministry says Thai delegation to apologise for artillery fire

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090220_04.jpg

Thailand accepts full responsibility for what they deemed accidental fire, Foreign Affairs official says.

Photo by:
TRACEY SHELTON

Cambodian soldiers look out towards Thailand at Preah Vihear temple in October last year. 

ATHAI delegation was to visit Phnom Penh today to discuss an incident earlier this week in which Thai soldiers fired at least eight artillery shells into Cambodian territory, a Cambodian Foreign Ministry official said Thursday.

The shells landed near the ancient Ta Krabey temple in Oddar Meanchey province on Tuesday, an RCAF commander said.

Koy Kuong, a spokesman at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the Post Thursday that the local Thai military had apologised to their Cambodian counterparts immediately after the strike and promised to avoid any similar incidents in future.

"Now the delegation will come to Phnom Penh to apologise to the Cambodian government," Koy Kuong said. "Thailand has agreed to take responsibility for the mistake, so we now consider this matter closed."

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said officials from the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, the Council of Ministers and the Foreign Ministry had launched an investigation into the incident.

...[I] told him that if they continued to fire on us we would counterattack.

"We will collect all the evidence including the direction of fire to evaluate whether this was accidental or intentional," Siphan said. "We want to reduce the chances of conflict along the border, but we also need to protect our sovereignty."

Tension between Thailand and Cambodia ratcheted higher in 2008 when troops from both countries clashed at the Preah Vihear temple and soldiers on both sides died in fighting in October before an uneasy peace was restored.

An RCAF military commander based in the border region told the Post Wednesday that in this week's incident the shells had landed two kilometres inside Cambodian territory. He said the 81mm and 106mm shells had come down near Ta Krabey temple and Bos Thom village.

The commander, who requested anonymity, said six shells had exploded in the forest and another two had failed to go off. No one was injured, and no property was damaged. His soldiers had collected shrapnel as evidence, he said, and were continuing to look for unexploded shells.

"As soon as the shells were fired, I phoned the Thai military commander and told him that if they continued to fire on us we would counterattack directly with BM-21 rockets," he said.

He said Thai soldiers had told him that at the time of the incident they were conducting a military exercise using tanks and heavy shells in the border area of Thailand's Buriram province.

Sao Socheat, the deputy commander of Military Region 4, said that immediately after the incident officers were sent to the area to investigate.

"We were doubtful of the Thai claim that this was an accident," Sao Socheat said. "It was very strange because this happened twice on the same day at different times." 

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