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Asia-Pacific
Ceasefire follows Thai-Cambodia border clash
Thai and Cambodian troops agree to a ceasefire after seven days of border conflict, which killed at least 15 people.
Last Modified: 27 Apr 2011 05:23
Thai soldiers near the border with Cambodia in Surin province as fighting there killed at least 14 people [REUTERS]

Thai and and Cambodian troops have agreed to a ceasefire, Cambodia's government said, after a week of clashes that have killed at least 15 people in Southeast Asia's deadliest border dispute in years.

On Thursday, both sides also agreed to re-open a border point near two disputed 12th-century Hindu temples to allow displaced people to return to their homes and villages, Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan said.

"We will abide by the ceasefire from now on and local commanders will meet regularly to avoid misunderstanding," he said. Fighting in the area had stopped after a brief morning clash, said Cambodian Colonel Suos Sothea.

"The situation is now quiet," he said.

Earlier, fighting continued for a seventh day between Thai and Cambodian troops in an area near three disputed 12th-century temples, as talks between the two sides appeared to collapse.

Artillery fire boomed across the frontier on Thursday and loud explosions were heard since dawn in Phanom Dongrak, a village about 20 km from the border.

In Cambodia, field commander Colonel Suos Sothea said the fighting was centering again around the ruins of two crumbling stone temples from the Khmer Empire at Ta Moan and Ta Krabey, which have been caught in crossfire since last Friday.

Al Jazeera's Wayne Hay reported from Ta Mieng, Thailand, near the border with Cambodia, "Thais are beefing up their presence, but Cambodians are doing the same as well.

"More and more people in Thailand, are starting to believe that there are political motives behind these clashes.

"Cambodia has used these clashes as a political tool for internal politics."

Meeting cancelled

Prawit Wongsuwon, Thailand's defence minister, had been expected to meet Tea Banh, his Cambodian counterpart, in Phnom Penh on Wednesday - but reportedly pulled out of the trip because of alleged comments made on Cambodian television.

IN VIDEO

Al Jazeera's Wayne Hay, reporting from Korat, says that each side blames the other for the violence

"We decided last night to cancel General Prawit's trip to Phnom Penh today after some Cambodia media reported Thailand agreed to ceasefire talks after it admitted defeat and losses," army spokesman Colonel Sunsern Kaewkumnerd told Reuters news agency.

"We welcome talks on the condition that they stop firing first for a few days. We clearly informed Cambodia of this condition," Sunsern said.

Phay Siphan, a Cambodian government spokesman responded by saying Thailand "isn't honest about wanting to reach a permanent ceasefire".

The bloodiest fighting along the disputed jungle border in decades has spread to the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple, the focus of strained relations between the neighbours since it was granted UN World Heritage status in 2008.

The area, 150km east of two other disputed temple complexes that were the scene of fierce fighting over the weekend, had been relatively calm for two months. 

Thailand says it wants a bilateral solution to the dispute, while Cambodia seeks international mediation and independent monitors in the region - as agreed by Association of South East Asian Nations foreign ministers in Jakarta in February. 

Sovereignty over the ancient, stone-walled Hindu temples - Preah Vihear, Ta Moan and Ta Krabey - and the jungle of the Dangrek Mountains surrounding them has been in dispute since the withdrawal of the French from Cambodia in the 1950s.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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