Thai-Cambodian fighting leaves 10 dead in two days

A second day of fighting between Thai and Cambodian troops brought the two-day death toll to 11.

Last Updated: Apr 23, 2011, 20:30 PM IST

Samrong: Heavy fighting erupted again on Saturday
on the Thai-Cambodia border, leaving 10 soldiers dead in two
days -- the worst bloodshed since a UN appeal in February for
a permanent ceasefire.

The two neighbours have fought a series of deadly
gunbattles in recent years in disputed jungle near ancient
temples along the frontier, which has never been fully
demarcated, partly because it is littered with landmines.

Three Cambodian troops and one Thai soldier were killed
today, according to officials in the two countries, a day
after three died on each side.

The Cambodian defence ministry accused Thailand of using
75mm and 105mm "heavy guns loaded with poisonous gas," but
gave no further details and the claim could not be
independently verified. The Thai army denied the allegation.

Thailand recently admitted using controversial Dual
Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions during the February
fighting but insisted it did not classify them as cluster
munitions.

In its statement, the Cambodian defence ministry said
Thailand was invading its territory "using ground troops and
many types of artillery" and said its civilians were in
danger.

Thousands of villagers have evacuated from nearby areas
on both sides following the latest flare-up of violence.

"Most of the people in my village have fled their homes
because many Thai artillery shells landed nearby," 29-year-old
farmer Has Pov said to a news agency.

"I`m really scared by the shelling," he added.
Villages close to the Cambodian side of the border were
emptied as people fled with their belongings.

A news agency photographer saw a house apparently damaged by
shelling in a village more than 10 kilometres from the area
where the main fighting occurred.

As usual, the two countries accused each other of
starting the latest clash, which appeared to have abated after
several hours Saturday.

"All of sudden they fired at us," Thai Defence Minister
General Prawit Wongsuwon said to a news agency.

"It could be that they wanted to internationalise the
situation to attract a third country (to intervene). We do not
want to fight but have to retaliate when they fire at us," he
said, calling for the resumption of bilateral talks to resolve
the territorial dispute.

"We have to put pressure on them to go back to the
meeting table," he said.

The fighting resumed at about 6 am (2300 GMT Friday) with
rifle fire and shelling in the same area as Friday`s deadly
standoff, according to spokesmen on both sides.

It is the first serious outbreak of hostilities since
February when 10 people were killed in clashes near the
900-year-old Hindu temple Preah Vihear, prompting UN Security
Council members to call for a lasting ceasefire.

Phnom Penh has called for outside mediation to help end
the standoff, but Thailand opposes third-party intervention.

The two countries agreed in late February to allow
Indonesian observers in the area near Preah Vihear, but the
Thai military has since said they are not welcome and they
have yet to be deployed.

The latest clashes, which saw more than six hours of
fighting on Friday, have taken place near a different group of
temples over 100 kilometres away from Preah Vihear.

Indonesia, which holds the rotating chairmanship of the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regional bloc,
has called for an immediate end to the violence. Vietnam urged
"maximum restraint".

Ties between the neighbours 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.

PTI