Thai-Cambodia border tensions ease

Commanders meet over lunch as Thai PM calls deadly clash "misunderstanding".

    Cambodian and Thai commanders held talks over lunch to clear the "misunderstanding" [AFP]


    Field commanders from both sides talked about how they could avoid further fighting over lunch on Sunday, according to Thai and Cambodian officials.

    "We held the meeting in order to make the situation return to normal and to make sure there's no more gunfire," Major-General Srey Doek, a Cambodian commander, said after the talks.

    Preah Vihear temple

    The 11th-century temple was built in the reign of King Suryvarman I, during the 600-year Khmer empire.

    Built to honour the Hindu god Shiva, the temple has withstood decades of war.

    In 1998, hundreds of Khmer Rouge guerrillas made their final surrender at the temple.

    Unesco deemed the temple a world heritage site for its location, rare architecture, religious function and carved stone ornaments.

    Major-General Kanok Netrak Thavesanak, a Thai commander, said both sides would "communicate to solve problems" in the future, adding that "sometimes there are misunderstandings".

    No further clashes were reported since troops exchanged fire with assault rifles and rocket launchers along the border near the ancient Preah Vihear temple complex.

    Troops were seen chatting and some even stowed away their weapons, but said they were ready to fight after the clash, the biggest burst of violence over the territory since four people were killed in October.

    Abhisit said he expected leaders of neighbouring countries to discuss the incident at a regional summit next week in the Thai coastal town of Pattaya, about 60km from the capital, Bangkok.

    Abhisit's measured tone echoed remarks by Hun Sen, his Cambodian counterpart, downplaying the clashes as a mere "incident" between neighbours that would not erupt into a war.

    "It's like next-door neighbours ... when their chickens fight, the owners get into a dispute too," Hun Sen had said on Saturday.

    The Cambodian leader said Friday's fighting started when Thai soldiers advanced into heavily-mined territory claimed by Cambodia and ignored warnings to turn back.

    But Thai officials denied any intrusion, saying they were trying to clear the area of explosives after a Thai soldier lost his leg when he stepped on a mine on Thursday.

    Ownership of the temple was awarded to Cambodia by an international court in 1962, but ownership of the surrounding land has remained in dispute.

    The recent listing of the temple as a Unesco world heritage site has revived nationalist tensions in Thailand and Cambodia.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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