Monday, April 25, 2011

Conflict between Borders [Thai-Cambodian borders]


Cambodia and Thailand exchanged heavy weapons fire for the third straight day on Sunday, officials said, after fierce fighting on their joint border left 10 soldiers dead.
Thousands of civilians have fled both sides of the disputed jungle frontier because of the fighting, which has shattered a tense two-month lull in hostilities.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for a ceasefire and said the neighbours should launch "serious dialogue" to resolve the dispute, according to a spokesman.
Thai villagers sheltering in makeshift tents in Prasat district, Surin province, told how they raced from their homes in fear when clashes began in the neighbouring border district of Phanom Dong Rak on Friday.
"When a shell fell next to my house, I knew I had to run away," said Somjai Lengtamdee from Baan Khaotoh village.
"I was so worried about my three children. We were separated and it took me all day to locate them all. I can only hope that the war ends soon. I'm so scared," the 37-year-old told AFP.
Somdee Suebnisai, a local official for Phanom Dong Rak said there were 16 camps in the area providing refuge to more than 18,000 people and the number was expected to rise to 20,000 by Sunday evening.
On the Cambodian side, the National Committee for Disaster Management told AFP that 12,000 people had been evacuated.
Cambodian villager Neb Oeuth and her six children were among those seeking shelter in a pagoda in Samrong, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) east of the unrest.
"Many bombs landed nearby my village and we were afraid. I have no idea when we will be able to return," she told AFP.
Cambodian field commander Suos Sothea told AFP the country's army had "suffered no casualties" in Sunday's fighting.
"The situation is quiet for now but a large-scale fight could start again at any moment. It depends on the Thai side," he said.
Thailand has also said no one was killed on Sunday.
Six Cambodian troops and four Thai soldiers were killed in the first two days of hostilities.
It is the first serious outbreak of fighting since February, when 10 people were killed near the 900-year-old Hindu temple Preah Vihear.
The latest clashes have taken place near a different group of temples more than 100 kilometres away from Preah Vihear.
Both countries have accused each other of sparking the violence.
"We have responded with machine guns and artillery, not gas or an invasion of Cambodian airspace," said Thai army spokesman Sunsern Kaewkumnerd, referring to earlier Cambodian claims that Thailand used "poisonous gas" and flew aircraft "deep into Cambodia's airspace".
Thailand recently admitted using controversial Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions, designed to burst into bomblets, during the February fighting but insisted it did not classify them as cluster munitions.
On Sunday Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Thailand was willing to hold bilateral talks and accused Cambodia of trying to "internationalise" the conflict.
Phnom Penh has asked for outside mediation, but Thailand opposes third-party intervention.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa is expected to travel to both countries on Monday for talks on the conflict.
Jakarta, which holds the rotating chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations regional bloc, has called for an immediate end to the violence.
The neighbours agreed in late February to allow Indonesian observers near Preah Vihear, but the Thai military has since said they are not welcome.
Ties between the two countries have been strained since Preah Vihear -- the most celebrated example of ancient Khmer architecture outside Cambodia's Angkor -- was granted UN World Heritage status in July 2008.
The World Court ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia, but both countries claim ownership of a 4.6 square kilometre (1.8 square mile) surrounding area.

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