Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fighting on Thai-Cambodian border

Two Cambodians have been killed at the Thai-Burma border, and four Thais wounded. Both sides say the other fired first. Thais have been told to leave Cambodia.

It ought to be said that the soldiers are fighting over a line through the jungle. It's an absurd conflict. See here for background.

UPDATE I: An AFP photographer observed 10 Cambodians surrender to the Thais. Bangkok Pundit suggests this image "will be fodder for the Thai press, but will cause outrage in Cambodia."

UPDATE II: The Phnom Penh Post reports (hat-tip Khmerization):
The shooting is very heavy now - this is very serious," said General Chea Saran, deputy commander of infantry operating on the frontier between the two countries. "I am meeting with my commanders before making orders."

An unnamed military officer at the Ministry of Defence also confirmed that the two sides were engaged in battle at Veal Antri, saying that a Thai helicopter had fired on the Cambodian lines, with the Cambodians responding with anti-aircraft weapons.
The report continues:
Loun An, deputy governor of Oddar Meanchey province, said Cambodian and Thai troops have shelled each other, and some 40 Thai troops have been surrounded by Cambodian soldiers.

Ten Thai troops near Preah Vihear temple have also surrendered, according to wire service reports.
I could not find the highlighted information in other Thai or Western news agency reports.

UPDATE III: The NY Times just put up this report:
A spokesman for the Thai Foreign Ministry said seven Thai paramilitary soldiers were wounded. Ten Thai soldiers surrendered to the Cambodians, according to news reports in the capital, Phnom Penh.
Thais in Cambodia, having been called home by the Thai foreign ministry, are frightened:
Thai nationals were reported to have huddled in a hotel in Phnom Penh for safety, uncertain if they should evacuate. Riot police were deployed outside the Thai Embassy.
The Times' report notes that the Cambodians are hardened fighters:
Thailand’s 300,000-strong military is far better equipped and trained than the Cambodian army, with F-16 fighter jets and Blackhawk helicopters. But Cambodian soldiers have been fighting in the area for decades and are hardened by guerrilla warfare.

The disputed temple was in the hands of Khmer Rouge guerrillas until a decade ago, when the movement collapsed, 19 years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime in Phnom Penh. Many soldiers and commanders in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces are former members of the Khmer Rouge.

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