Thai-Cambodia clashes resume despite truce

Thai soldier patrolling, 28 April 2011
Image caption Clashes between Thailand and Cambodia in the disputed border area started a week ago

One Thai soldier has died in a fresh border clash between Thailand and Cambodia, Thai officials say, despite a truce struck hours before.

Thai military spokesmen said four Thai soldiers were hurt in the skirmishes.

Fighting began a week ago and has been mainly around two ancient temples in jungle areas claimed by both countries.

The clashes have displaced tens of thousands of people, and at least 15 troops have been killed. Thailand says that one Thai civilian has also died.

As before, both sides accused the other of starting the violence.

In blaming Cambodia for the latest fighting, Thai army spokesman Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd said that "local units might not agree to the talks as easily as their commanders did".

Cambodian Col Suos Sothea said the clashes had begun after the Thais fired shells into Cambodia early on Friday.

"We cannot trust the Thais," he was quoted as saying. "Yesterday they said they'd stop fighting and now they are attacking us again."

But officials from both sides suggested the truce could be salvaged.

"It's not considered a breach of ceasefire because they have used personal firearms. But if the clash expands with heavy weapons, that means the agreement is no longer valid," said Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban.

Cambodia's defence ministry said its military still respected the ceasefire agreement despite the "regrettable" attack.

Unresolved row

The violence erupted on 22 April, mainly around the temples of Ta Krabey and Ta Moan. It spread briefly to a third location - the hill-top temple of Preah Vihear - on Tuesday.

Parts of the Thai-Cambodian border have never been formally demarcated, spurring nationalist sentiment in both countries and sparking sporadic clashes.

Fighting took place three years ago in the run-up to a general election in Cambodia, and this latest outbreak comes with the Thai government due to call an election in the coming weeks.

A long-term solution at governmental level remains elusive, although the two prime ministers may talk at a meeting of the Asean regional bloc next month.

A previous agreement to allow Indonesian observers to act as monitors along the border has not been implemented, largely because of Thai military opposition.

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