Thailand, Cambodia clash at border for 9th day
BANGKOK, Thailand – Troops from Thailand and Cambodia exchanged fire at the countries’ contested border again Saturday, marking the ninth straight day of clashes that have left at least 16 people dead and displaced nearly 100,000.
Cambodian Col. Suos Sothea said the shooting took place around dawn near the Ta Krabey temple. A Thai soldier on the other side of the frontier gave a similar account, saying the fighting lasted about half an hour. No casualties were reported.
The fighting that began April 22 has killed 15 soldiers on both sides and one civilian, and is the worst between the countries in three years.
Thailand and Cambodia have clashed six times since 2008 over the border, where several crumbling ancient Hindu temples sit atop cliffs and in jungles mined in wars past. The land has been disputed for more than half a century, but analysts say domestic politics on both sides is driving the conflict.
Field commanders agreed to a brief truce Thursday in a meeting at the disputed border and met again Friday, but the cease-fire has not held. Both militaries have said they are defending themselves against foreign aggression, and blamed each other for starting the fighting.
“I wish both sides could talk, so that there is no more fighting,” said Boonteung Somsed, a 58-year-old Thai construction worker who fled to the village of Prasat, about 20 miles (30 kilometers) from the border, on Friday. “Every time a soldier picks up a weapon, a village has to run away from home.”
Few believe the conflict will lead to full-scale war, and neither side appears to be trying to capture territory.
Analysts say Thailand’s military fears the possible outcome of elections expected in June or July and is trying to rally Thais behind it. Thai media have suggested Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has been in power since 1985, fomented border tensions to distract the public from domestic woes.