Published: October 18, 2008
Cambodian Maj. Gen. Srey Doek (L) and Thai Col. Chayan Huay Soongnern (R), conducted a joint inspection of their troops on 18th October.
PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia: Thai and Cambodian field commanders worked Saturday to strengthen a fragile truce following a deadly gunbattle between their soldiers stationed on the border.
The commanders, Cambodian Maj. Gen. Srey Doek and Thai Col. Chayan Huaysoongnern, conducted a joint inspection of their troops, ate lunch together and discussed how to prevent future flare-ups of violence in disputed territory near an 11th century temple.
Fighting between the two sides Wednesday killed two Cambodian soldiers and led to fears of war between the neighbors.
“We would like to see stability restored as it was before the clash and promote friendship between the two countries,” Srey Doek told Chayan as they sat at a bamboo table erected in the jungle.
Chayan nodded, smiled and said “yes.”
As they talked, dozens of their soldiers in full combat gear stood near them.
Cambodia’s prime minister on Friday downplayed Wednesday’s clash and urged further negotiations to prevent the dispute from again turning violent.
Speaking after a Cabinet meeting, Hun Sen described the battle as “a minor armed clash.”
“We can still talk to each other and are not yet enemies unwilling to talk to each other at all,” Hun Sen said.
The fighting was the latest flare-up in a decades-old dispute over a stretch of jungle near the Preah Vihear temple. The World Court awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, but sovereignty over surrounding land has never been clearly resolved.
Analysts say the conflict has been fueled by domestic concerns in the two countries.
In Thailand, resurgent nationalism, promoted by a protest group seeking to topple the government, has put authorities in Bangkok under political pressure to aggressively pursue claims to the land.
Cambodia has historically felt marginalized and abused by its more powerful neighbors, Thailand and Vietnam. The dispute allows Hun Sen to portray himself as an aggressive defender of Cambodia’s national rights, said Milton Osborne, an Australian historian specializing in Southeast Asia.
Associated Press writers Ker Munthit in Phnom Penh and Grant Peck in Bangkok contributed to this report.