The area around the temple is claimed by both sides and Cambodian foreign ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said Phnom Penh planned to complain to the United Nations over what it termed the “Thai invasion”.
“We will lodge a complaint with the UN Security Council on Saturday,” he told AFP, adding that Thai soldiers had fired artillery shells some 18 to 20 kilometres (11 to 12 miles) into Cambodian territory
Two Cambodian soldiers and a Thai villager were killed in a two-hour border clash today, the latest in an ancient feud over land surrounding a 900-year-old Hindu temple.
Several Thai soldiers were also wounded and four Thai villages were evacuated, Thai media reported. Five Thai soldiers were captured, said an army spokesman, Sansern Kaewkamnerd.
BP: Things don’t look good. Pressure will be on both sides to take action over the other side’s aggression.
BP: Channel 9’s Kao Kon Kon Kao reports 8 injuries. They state that Cambodian media are reporting many deaths among Thai soliders. Army spokesman Col Sansern on Ch 9 says Cambodians fired first and so we fired back. Col. Sansern says no deaths among soliders, but there are some injuries.
Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn says occasional skirmishes were due to the unsecured nature of the border. He says it demonstrates a need to step up efforts under a memorandum of understanding aimed at resolving the territorial conflict peacefully.
“This is why we urge Cambodia to work with us more rapidly under the MOU to negotiate the clear demarcations so we can secure the borders much more effectively,” he said.
VOA’s Khmer service, however, reported the fighting was extensive, with artillery fire and tank clashes.
Panthep Pourpongphan is a spokesman for the PAD, which is calling for the memorandum of understanding to be scrapped. He says the latest skirmish shows the MOU is not working.
“This fighting, is kind of evidence, is quite clear evidence that this kind of MOU has so many problems that we need to stop it and [start] new negotiations with a new MOU,” Pourpongphan stated.
BP: The PAD and the Democrats really have polar opposite views now…..
Witnesses in the area said that Thai troops had attacked a Cambodian Buddhist pagoda in a border area claimed by both sides.
BP: Reuters has a backgrounder here.
20:00: While PAD state they aren’t calling for war with Cambodia, they have been beating the war drums for weeks. Pravit in The Nation:
Shortly before 6pm and not long after the male speaker onstage promised that the PAD is not calling for war, his female colleague read a PAD leadership statement of the day, urging the Thai government to repeal the MoU unilaterally and “use military might to pressure [Cambodia] into drafting a new MoU”.
“Yeah! That’s the way to go!” shouted one yellow-shirt supporter in the front row as many others waved their hand-clappers and cheered in approval.
“That’s the way!” he shouted again.
Maj Gen Chamlong Srimuang, a core PAD leader, said the Thai military did not have to wage a war with Cambodia to regain Thai sovereignty over disputed areas along the border.
But it could use the country’s military might to gain a stronger bargaining position.
The government has not tried to gain such leverage through the demonstration of Thailand’s military capacity, Maj Gen Chamlong said.
‘‘Consequently, it has allowed the Cambodian government to have the upper hand,’’ he said.
‘‘Our fighter jets can reach Cambodian skies in five minutes.’’
Asked if such a demonstration of Thailand’s military might would hurt the country’s relationship with its neighbour, Maj Gen Chamlong replied:
‘What are you afraid of more? Hurting the ties or losing territory?’’
BP: And they don’t want a clash?
Foreign Minister Kasit was in Cambodia today as MCOT reports:
Thailand and Cambodia have agreed to avoid any incident that could eventually lead to conflict between the two countries and will jointly build peace along their shared border.
The announcement followed talks between Thai Foreign Affairs Minister Kasit Piromya and his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong in Siem Reap, Cambodia, on the sidelines of the Thai-Cambodia Joint Commission (JC) on bilateral cooperation meeting on Friday.
BP: Well, clearly it is not working so far… Kasit gave a presser before leaving Cambodia where he called for utmost restraint from all sides and said that the Thai authorities had spoken with the Cambodian authorities to end the skirmish which has now ended.
Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged heavy arms fire near a disputed temple on the two countries’ shared border on Friday, officials said, as tensions between the neighbours boiled over.
Chhum Socheat, a spokesman for the Cambodian Ministry of Defence, said both sides were using “mortar and artillery”.
The Thai army reported two wounded in the skirmish, which follows reports of a military buildup on both sides of the border in recent days.
Shells had landed close to the ancient Preah Vihear temple area, which is claimed by both sides, locals said, but reports suggested the fighting later subsided.
Thai Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon played down the significance of the incident. “We are negotiating now and I am sure that everything will be fine,” he said.
Both Thailand and Cambodia accused the other of starting the fighting, the first since April 2009.
Cambodia’s state news agency reported that “at least four” Thai soldiers were believed to have been captured, quoting government spokesman Phay Siphan, accusing Thai troops of “invading”.
“We have a right to self-defence against the Thai invasion to protect our land,” he said.
BP: According to ThaiPBS the fighting has now stopped. Now, we are just dealing with the fall-out….
Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan said the fighting occurred near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, which belongs to Cambodia. Thailand claims a small patch of land near the temple.
Sporadic artillery fire could still be heard two hours later on a live interview on the Spring News TV website with a schoolmaster near the border, and in other Thai media reports.
Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said the fighting erupted when Thai troops ignored Cambodian warnings to stop crossing into its territory. He said the Cambodians fired warning shots into the air and the Thai soldiers returned fire.
Thailand disputed that account. Thai army spokesman Col. Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the clash was triggered by artillery shots fired from the Cambodian side that fell on Thai territory.
“We don’t want to say that it was intentional. It could have been caused by a misunderstanding,” he told The Associated Press, adding that Thai troops returned fire as a warning.
Sansern said the Thai army commander and other senior officers were talking to Cambodian military authorities about the incident. He said no injuries had been reported and there had been no order to evacuate local residents from the area. However, Thai TV station TPBS showed villagers fleeing for safety.
Maj. Prom Sarouen, commander of the Cambodian police unit guarding Preah Vihear temple, confirmed by phone that fighting was continuing, with both sides using artillery and heavy machine guns. He said some shells had fallen on the temple grounds, but did not know if they had caused any damage.
Cambodia’s relations with Thailand have been contentious for years. They have had a series of small but sometimes deadly skirmishes over the demarcation of the border near the Preah Vihear temple.
BP: This is not the first skirmish, but this latest one has occurred at the same time that the PAD are protesting against Abhisit over Thai-Cambodian border issues from an MOU about dealing with border demarcation, the arrest of 7 Thais in the border area and jailing of 2, claims of loss of sovereignty etc ..
Reuters has the PAD reaction:
Shelling began at about 3 p.m. (0800 GMT) and continued into early evening. Artillery shells landed at several villages on the Thai side, setting at least four houses on fire, witnesses said.
A Thai police colonel, Chatchawan Kaewchandee, said at least one villager was killed during the shelling. “We found one body of a male villager and there might be more,” he said.
The fighting could give a boost to a small but prolonged protest by Thailand’s “yellow shirt” activists demanding Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva take a tougher line against Cambodia.
Chamlong Srimuang, a yellow shirt leader, said his group would step up pressure on the government, saying the fighting showed that Abhisit was weak in handling border tensions.
“We have warned about this sort of thing for a long time. We didn’t call for a clash just for the government to show our military strength precisely to prevent any clash from taking place,” he told reporters
BP: Really, the PAD didn’t call for a clash?