Thai, Cambodian militaries agree to joint patrols
The Associated Press
PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia: Cambodia and Thailand agreed to hold joint patrols along a disputed section of their border to defuse tensions after a deadly clash near a historic temple raised fears of outright war.
However, both sides said Thursday that they would keep their built-up troop presence in the area, said Lt. Gen. Viboonsak Neepan, the Thai army commander for the region.
Wednesday’s battle near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple killed two Cambodians and wounded three others. Seven Thai troops were wounded.
Soldiers from both sides faced off along the disputed border Thursday as their commanders met inside Thailand to work out an agreement to prevent further bloodshed.
“We will use negotiation as a means to solve the problem,” Thailand’s Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat said.
The two sides agreed to “joint patrols to reduce tension and the chances of a misunderstanding, which could lead to another clash,” Thai army spokesman Col. Sansern Kaewkumnerd said.
Maj. Gen. Srey Doek, a Cambodian army commander at Preah Vihear, confirmed the two sides had agreed to reduce tensions to prevent future battles, and said they would continue talks about the issues that led to the violence.
The fighting Wednesday lasted for about an hour, with each side accusing the other of firing first. Cambodia on Thursday released 13 Thai paramilitary troops it has taken prisoner during the fighting.
Thai army spokesman Sansern denied Cambodian accounts that several Thai soldiers had died.
Men Li, a Cambodian army major based near the temple, said Thai soldiers retrieved the bodies of two of their colleagues from one of the battle sites Thursday morning. Other Cambodian soldiers said they also witnessed the bodies being retrieved.
The fighting was the latest flare-up in a decades-old dispute over a stretch of jungle near the temple. The World Court awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, but sovereignty over surrounding land has never been clearly resolved.
Resurgent Thai nationalism, promoted by a protest group that is seeking to topple the current Thai government, has put the authorities in Bangkok under political pressure to aggressively pursue claims to the land.
Associated Press Writers Jocelyn Gecker in Bangkok, Thailand, and Ker Munthit in Phnom Penh contributed to this report.