Cambodian, Thai armed clashes cost lives, damage temples

PHNOM PENH, April 22 (Xinhua) — The military clashes between Cambodia and Thailand over the disputed border area at Ta Mon Thom and Ta Krabek temples in Oddar Meanchey province have claimed lives, caused damages to the ancient temples and forced thousands of nearby villagers fleeing home, the Cambodian government said Friday afternoon.

Cambodian Ministry of Defense issued a press release on Friday, saying that on April 22 at 6:00 a.m., Thai soldiers have trespassed and staged an attack on the base of Cambodian troops along the border from Ta Krabek temple to Chhub Koky and entered deeply into Cambodian territory.

“During the attack, Thai troops have used heavy weapons, including DK-75 mm and DK-82 mm mortars, and 105 mm and 155 mm artilleries to shell into Cambodian territory and deeply entered Cambodian territory up to 21 kilometers from border line, which are the areas with Cambodian villagers,” said the statement.

“Since early this morning up to now the fighting still continues after Thai side took a short pause at around lunch time, ” said Lieutenant General Chhum Socheat, the spokesman for Cambodian Ministry of Defense, at a press briefing. “Thai troops have used artilleries to shell on temples and damage them.”

He did not give the official number of casualties at the briefing. However, Neak Vong, the deputy commander of brigade 42 at Ta Mon Thom temple, told Xinhua by telephone that the interim figure recorded that three Cambodian troops were killed and one was injured.

Phay Siphan, the spokesman for the council of ministers, said that Cambodia will inform international community about the attack by Thai troops on Cambodian territory, simultaneously, Cambodian troops will stay firm to defend the territory against Thai invasion.

“Thousands of Cambodian villagers have been evacuated for safe shelters following the clashes and our ancient temples now are in damage,” he added. “Thai attack is an unacceptable act.”

So far, there is no meeting between the two sides over this latest clashes, he added.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong has sent letters on Friday to the United Nations Security Council and Indonesia, the current chair of ASEAN to draw attention of the international and regional community to the fresh armed conflict.

The military clash reoccured just more than two months after the deadly clash on Feb. 4-7 at the border disputed area next to Preah Vihear temple, the World Heritage Site.

The border between Thailand and Cambodia has never been completely demarcated and the issue of Preah Vihear temple has been an age-old dispute.

Cambodia’s Preah Vihear temple was enlisted as World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008. Just a week after the enlistment, Cambodia and Thailand have had border conflict due to Thai claim of the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the temple, triggering a military build-up along the border, and periodic clashes between Cambodian and Thai soldiers have resulted in the deaths of troops on both sides.