Sunday, July 10, 2011

Thai troops on alert near Cambodian border

By Pongpat Traipipat
The Nation on Sunday
Si Sa Ket
Published on July 10, 2011

The Thai military has vowed to fight to protect the country's sovereignty if they are pressured to withdraw from the border areas following reports that the Cambodian army has reinforced troops and heavy weapons along the border.

Reports doing the rounds say there are Cambodian troops fully equipped with tanks and cannons pointing at the Thai borders not far from Preah Vihear in tambon Sao Thong Chai of Si Sa Ket's Kantharalak district.

The Thai military has been following the Cambodian troop movements closely after Cambodia's celebration of its successful application to list the temple as a World Heritage Site, although it has yet to fully develop the temple due to the border dispute with Thailand.

Both countries have reinforced troops at the disputed 4.6 kilometres area amid reports that the Unesco World Heritage Convention will require Thailand to withdraw troops from the disputed zone on July 18 when the International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivers its verdict.

Phnom Penh has asked the court to clarify the scope and meaning of the 1962 ruling on Preah Vihear. As it awaits the interpretation, it has also asked the court to set provisional measures forcing Thailand to withdraw its troops, banning them from any military activities in the area or taking any action that could violate Cambodia's rights.

Although Thailand had earlier walked out of the World Heritage Convention with the intention of quitting as a member of the committee, the resignation is not official without a written document.

Colonel Thanasak Mitrapanont, Ranger Force Regiment 23's Special Task Force chief, said he had been instructed to lead his unit to protect the country's sovereignty and safeguard Thais to the best of his ability.

Banyong Tangsuk, a village head of Ban Phumisarol, said the locals had high hopes that there would not be a repeat of skirmishes that took place in February, as they were confident in the Pheu Thai Party. "The party is believed to be in negotiations with Cambodia. At least they will have respect for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra because he served as its economic adviser for some time,'' he said.

However, Banyong said he was a bit worried that if the formation of the new government was delayed there could be border clashes.

"We hope peace really returns to the border area. Locals have to face the unfortunate fate from the Thai power struggle. We wish for peace but we also do not want to lose our territory. At the same time we do not want war,'' he said.

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