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Thai prime minister defends army’s actions in border battle

Posted by on February 6, 2011 0 Comment

Bangkok, Feb 6 (DPA) Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva insisted Sunday Thai troops were not to blame for deadly border skirmishes with Cambodia, as a fragile truce held along a strip of disputed land.

“I confirm that Thailand did not invade Cambodian territory,” Abhisit said. “But we reserve our right to protect our sovereignty in an appropriate way.”

“Our counterattacks never target civilians, only the (Cambodian) military that started firing on us,” he said.

One Thai soldier, one civilian and at least three Cambodians were reportedly killed Friday and Saturday in exchanges of small arms and artillery fire along the border between Thailand’s Si Sa Ket province and Cambodia’s Preah Vihear province.

About 15 Thai soldiers were wounded and several houses damaged.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong lodged a protest with the UN Security Council Saturday, accusing Thai troops of “flagrant aggression”.

The fighting took place near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, which has been disputed by the two countries for more than 50 years.

The cliff-side Khmer Hindu temple was awarded to Cambodia in a 1962 ruling by the International Court of Justice, but ownership of adjoining land has remained in dispute.

Cambodian authorities Saturday said the temple was damaged by Thai fire during the two-day artillery duel.

Abhisit has come under political pressure to take a stronger line against Cambodia.

Several thousand demonstrators from the ultra-nationalist People’s Alliance for Democracy camped outside Government House to demand the prime minister’s resignation because of his alleged failure to deal decisively with the border issue.

The alliance played a key role in bringing down three Thai governments since 2006.

The protesters are demanding that Thailand scrap a 2000 memorandum of understanding with Cambodia to solve border disputes peacefully.

Under terms of that agreement, Thai and Cambodian border forces negotiated a ceasefire Saturday and officers from both sides were meeting Sunday to maintain the peace.

Abhisit said that due to the border clashes he would seek to suspend the ancient temple’s listing as a UNESCO World Heritage sight, at a meeting scheduled in June in Bahrain.

He called for Thais of all political persuasions to support Thai forces deployed along the border.

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