PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (AFP) — Thailand and Cambodia have built up forces at more points along their common border, stepping up a week-long standoff over disputed territory, Cambodian officials said Wednesday.
More than 500 Thai troops are facing off against at least 1,000 Cambodian soldiers over a tiny area of land near the ancient Preah Vihear temple, but thousands more Thai troops have been positioned along the border, they said.
“There are about 1,000 Thai troops in their territory — there’s a military build-up there,” said Cambodian cabinet spokesman Phay Siphan, who estimated about 4,000 Thai troops in total have gathered across the entire border.
But Thailand denied it was reinforcing the frontier.
“Thailand has not been building up forces along the border,” deputy army spokeswoman Colonel Sirichan Ngathong told AFP.
“We maintain the same amount of soldiers, and more than 400 soldiers were sent to the overlapping area.”
Cambodian officials said both sides had sent more troops and heavy weapons to a spot near the former Khmer Rouge stronghold Anlong Veng, where there is also disputed territory.
“There are more (Thai) troops now at Anlong Veng than there are here (at Preah Vihear). There are tanks and artillery,” said a military official on condition of anonymity.
Cambodia has also sent heavy weapons to the area, said the Cambodian colonel, who has close ties to Thai armed forces
In neighbouring Banteay Meanchay province, police chief Hun Hean said Thailand had increased its troop presence directly across the border by up to 600 since the standoff began July 15.
Thailand and Cambodia have both stationed troops on a small piece of disputed soil near a small Buddhist pagoda at the foot of the mountain leading to the 11th century Preah Vihear temple.
Although Thailand says it wants to solve the dispute through bilateral talks, Thailand’s UN ambassador said the issue would be raised at a meeting of the UN Security Council on Thursday at Cambodia’s request.
The dispute erupted after three nationalist Thai protesters were arrested last week for jumping a barbed-wire fence to reach the temple, prompting armed troops to head to the border.