Thailand and Cambodia Agree to Joint Patrol of Border
RELATIONS between Thailand and Cambodia remained tense today as Thailand denied that Cambodian troops had killed several of their soldiers in a border flare-up of ongoing hostilities. The two countries have agreed to joint patrols of the border today as gunfire silence falls tonight. It had been feared that all-out war was about to break out after a deadly clash near 11-th Century Preah Vihear historic temple on Wednesday.
The battle Wednesday near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple killed two Cambodians and wounded three others. Seven Thai troops were wounded as well.
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 first deadly battle in the area since July, when UNESCO approved Cambodia's bid to make Preah Vihear temple a U.N. World Heritage site. The decision ignited long-standing tensions between the neighbors, who both claim land around the temple, and prompted them to rush troops to the border.