10/17/2008, 00.00
THAILAND – CAMBODIA
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Tenuous truce between Thailand and Cambodia along border

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen appeals for dialogue, but military tensions remain high. A patch or border land near the Preah Vihear Temple is at the centre of their dispute. Thailand’s political crisis shows no signs of abating amidst fears of another military coup.
Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Thailand and Cambodia have agreed to an armed truce following a border incident on Wednesday in the area near the Preah Vihear Temple that left two Cambodian soldiers dead and several soldiers wounded on both sides. Against this backdrop Thailand continues to be torn by its domestic crisis amidst fear of a military coup after the prime minister rejected a demand by the army chief to resign.

This morning Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said: “We can still talk to each other and are not yet enemies unwilling to talk to each other at all. [. . .] “There is no large-scale war occurring."

Thai army spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkumnerd said military officials from the two sides agreed Thursday to hold joint patrols to reduce tension and the chances of another clash.

However, General Ke Kim Yan, commander in chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, denied that any deal for joint patrols had been reached.

He said the two countries had only agreed to maintain their current troop deployments in the disputed area and inform each other about any troop movements to prevent further misunderstandings.

Thai military command blamed Cambodia for the incident, saying that Thai soldiers encountered their Cambodian counterpart who fired upon them. In reacting to the aggression the Thai side killed two Cambodian soldiers.

As a result of the clash thousands of Cambodian villagers in the area near the Preah Vihear temple have fled their homes amid fears of more violence.

For its part the Thai government has urged its citizens in Cambodia to leave as soon as possible.

Tensions between the two neighbours worsened in August when UNESCO declared Preah Vihear Temple a world heritage site. The place of worship is atop a hill and was awarded to Cambodia by the International Court of Justice in 1962.

The surrounding area (4.5 km2) however is part of disputed territory with great tourist potential.

In Thailand itself the ongoing political crisis shows no sign of being resolved.

Hounded by the opposition that wants his resignation Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat said today that he will not quit and leave office, resisting calls from army Chief Anupong Paochinda to quit.

Yesterday Anupong said that Somchai should resign to take responsibility for violent street battles on 7 October that pitted police against protesters in which two people died and hundreds were injured.

He also said that the armed forces had no plan to directly intervene at the moment.

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