REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia’s prime minister warned Thailand on Monday that “armed clashes” will erupt if Thai troops continue to trespass over the border.
Prime Minister Hun Sen’s comments came after he met Thailand’s foreign minister in the latest effort to ease tensions over a territorial dispute that earlier this month sparked a brief exchange of gunfire at the border.
“We told them that if they do not stop (trespassing), armed clashes will break out,” Hun Sen told reporters.
Thailand’s Foreign Minister Sompong Amornwiwat did not immediately comment after the meeting.
Last week, two Thai soldiers were injured by land mines along the border. Thailand says the soldiers were on the Thai side of the border, but Cambodia has accused them of overstepping the boundary at a point several miles (kilometers) west of the ancient Preah Vihear temple.
The area — known as Eagle Field — could become “a life-and-death battle ground,” Hun Sen said, adding that Thai soldiers are now camped there about 33 yards (meters) from Cambodian troops.
Three days before that incident, at a point a few hundred yards (meters) away, a gunfight broke out between soldiers from the two sides. One Cambodian and two Thai soldiers were wounded.
Both sides claimed the other fired first and blamed each other for being on the wrong side of the border.
Earlier Monday, Sompong held talks with his Cambodian counterpart, Hor Namhong, but they failed to make any breakthrough in the dispute.
In a statement issued after the meeting, Cambodia’s Foreign Ministry called for more talks to “avoid further unwarranted hostilities.”
Cambodian Maj. Gen. Srey Doek, an army commander, said his troops are on high alert but declined to give their numbers.
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 July 15 after UNESCO, the U.N. agency, approved Cambodia’s bid to have the Preah Vihear temple named a World Heritage Site. Both sides deployed 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.