Thai and Cambodian troops exchange fire near disputed temple.
“Of those 80 troops, 20 of them are mine clearance workers and the rest offer protection for the mine clearance troops. Thailand insists it has not encroached in any territory.”
After meeting Thailand’s foreign minister on Monday, Cambodia’s Hun Sen had said “armed clashes” would erupt if Thai troops continued to “trespass” over the border.
“We told them that if they do not stop [trespassing], armed clashes will break out,” Hun Sen told reporters, warning that the area could become “a life-and-death battleground”.
The Thai army said on Tuesday that it was prepared for a confrontation with Cambodia if the dispute escalated.
The armed forces reaffirmed that all three armed forces – army, navy and air force – are ready for confrontation in the area and are confident in our potential to defend Thailand’s sovereignty,” it said in a statement.
Hun Sen’s meeting with Sompong Amornwiwat, Thailand’s foreign minister, was the latest effort to ease tensions over a territorial dispute that earlier this month sparked a brief exchange of gunfire at the border that injured one Cambodian and two Thai soldiers.
Both countries have long claimed Preah Vihear, but the World Court awarded it to Cambodia in 1962.
Sovereignty over some of the land around the temple, however, has not been clearly resolved.
Tensions flared in July when the UN accepted Cambodia’s submission to name Preah Vihear a World Heritage site, with both countries deploying troops to the border.
There has been a limited troop withdrawal from the area since, and talks have been held several times to resolve the conflicting claims, but without much progress.
In a statement issued after Monday’s meeting, Cambodia’s foreign ministry called for more talks to “avoid further unwarranted hostilities”.