News / Asia

Thailand, Cambodia Reach Ceasefire Agreement After Cross Border Firing

Cambodian soldiers sit at Preah Vihear temple after a brief clash with Thai troops, February 05, 2011
Cambodian soldiers sit at Preah Vihear temple after a brief clash with Thai troops, February 05, 2011
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Ron Corben

Thailand and Cambodia agreed to a ceasefire Saturday after renewed fighting in a disputed border region killed at least one soldier.

A tentative ceasefire appeared to be holding late Saturday after Thai and Cambodian troops exchanged artillery fire along their shared border.

Military officials from the two countries blamed each other for the outbreak of hostilities, the first in the region resulting in fatalities in a year.

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn says the military has specific rules of engagement that were also communicated to Cambodia.

"We have instructed the military to respond only when attacked to specific military targets only, and the Prime Minister asked the officers in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to communicate this intention clearly to Cambodia,” Panitan said. “The Prime Minister also hopes that we can continue to work with Cambodia in achieving a peaceful solution. Only we regret that we have casualties on both sides."

Fighting broke out late Friday near the 900 year old Preah Vihear temple in a disputed area near the Thai-Cambodia border.

The fighting is the latest flare-up between the neighboring nations over the disputed land and control of the ancient Hindu temple.

Both Cambodia and Thailand have laid claim to the temple. A 1962 World Court ruling awarded it to Cambodia, which also successfully had the temple declared a World Heritage site in 2008. But the exact border near the temple has never been settled, leading to periodic skirmishes.

Tensions have risen in recent days because of demonstrations by influential Thai nationalist groups demanding Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to take a tougher stance in the border dispute.

Political observers say the clashes mark a setback in steps to promote a wider political security and community grouping within the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Both Thailand and Cambodia are ASEAN members.

ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan expressed deep concern over the conflict, calling for and end to the violence and a return to negotiations. Surin said both sides appeared open to some form of mediation by ASEAN.

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