Thai, Cambodia Border Fight Kills 4 Soldiers, Stoking Tensions
Thai and Cambodian troops clashed in a disputed border area today, killing at least four soldiers in the first major fighting since the United Nations Security Council urged a permanent cease-fire two months ago.
One Thai soldier died and six were wounded in the fighting, which occurred several hundred kilometers west of clashes in February near a United Nations World Heritage site, Veerachon Sukondhadhpatipak, the Thai army’s deputy spokesman, said by phone. Three Cambodian troops were killed in the fighting, Xinhua reported, citing Cambodian military commander Neak Vong.
“The fighting has stopped now,” Veerachon said. “For the Thai side, we don’t have a sense of retaliation.”
The clashes reignite tensions along the border that escalated in 2008 after Thailand opposed Cambodia’s efforts to list Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site. Fighting in February claimed at least 10 lives and displaced 30,000 people.
A few thousand nationalist Thai protesters have blocked a Bangkok street for three months to demand Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva take tougher measures against Cambodia. He plans to hold an election in June or July.
The latest fighting erupted when a Cambodian border patrol encroached on Thai territory, Veerachon said. Cambodian spokesman Phay Siphan didn’t answer calls to his mobile phone.
In 1962, the International Court of Justice ruled in a 9-3 vote that Cambodia had sovereignty over Preah Vihear. The two countries have yet to reconcile 10,422 square miles (26,993 square kilometers) of disputed waters in the Gulf of Thailand that may contain oil and gas reserves.
Thailand’s $264 billion economy is more than 26 times the size of Cambodia’s. The Cambodian army spent $191 million in 2009, compared with $4.9 billion for the military in Thailand, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
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