|Thai soldiers near the border with Cambodia in Surin province as fighting there killed at least 16 people [REUTERS]|
A brief ceasefire between Thailand and Cambodia has broken down, shattering hopes for a quick end to the border conflict as the two sides exchanged fire for an eighth day.
Field commanders agreed to the truce in a meeting at the disputed border on Thursday. But Cambodian Colonel Suos Sothea said the Thai army fired artillery shells into Cambodia again on Friday and small arms fire crackled anew around the Ta Krabey temple, which lies in a disputed zone along the frontier.
“We cannot trust the Thais,” he said. “Yesterday they said they’d stop fighting and now they are attacking us again.”
The death toll since the clashes has risen to 16.
Thai army spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd said there had been light clashes late on Thursday as well as early on Friday.
He blamed Cambodia for breaking the deal, saying its “local units might not agree to the talks as easily as their commanders did.”
The director of Phanom Dongrak hospital, about 20 km from the border, confirmed one Thai soldier was killed late on Thursday, bringing the total dead to 16.
Al Jazeera’s Wayne Hay, reporting from Ta Mieng, Thailand, near the border with Cambodia, said that “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.”
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.
|Al Jazeera’s Wayne Hay, reporting from Korat, says that each side blames the other for the violence|
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.