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1 Apr 2009

Cambodian PM warns of reprisals if Thai troops cross the border

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday warned neighbouring Thailand that it would face fighting if its troops again crossed their disputed border, reported AFP.

The premier made the remarks a week after Cambodian officials said some 100 Thai troops briefly entered contested territory near an ancient temple where a deadly gun battle broke out last year.

"I tell you first, if you enter (Cambodian territory) again, we will fight. The troops at the border have already received the order," Hun Sen said at a ceremony to open a road named after him in the seaside resort of Sihanoukville.

"I am the leader of Cambodia who was elected by the will of the people, not by robbing power," he added, in an apparent reference to Thailand's current political instability.

Hun Sen also told his audience that Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva will visit Cambodia on April 18, but blasted the Thai foreign minister Kasit Piromya for allegedly insulting him.

"He insults me - he has called me a gangster," he said of the foreign minister.

"What if I insult your king? What would you say if I insult your prime minister and your ancestors? I'm not angry with you, but please use dignified words."

Tensions over the long-disputed territory flared in July last year after the 11th century temple was granted United Nations world heritage status. Soldiers clashed in the area in October, leaving four troops dead.

Subsequent talks between Cambodia and Thailand have not resolved the dispute. Thai officials denied that any of their troops had crossed the border last week.

A spokesman for the Thai foreign ministry, Tharit Charungwat, said it had not received an official report on Hun Sen's speech, but added that there had been a "misinterpretation" of earlier comments made by Kasit regarding Hun Sen.

"Thailand wants to avoid using force and supports using border mechanisms to solve problems. The border mechanism is working well," Tharit said.

The border between the two countries has never been fully demarcated, in part because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia.

Around 100 Thai troops briefly entered Cambodian territory on Wednesday near a disputed border temple where a deadly gunbattle broke out last year, Cambodian officials said.

Thailand's military however denied the claim, saying that they only had a few soldiers in a disputed area where troops from both sides have been posted since the clashes in October.

"There are nearly 100 armed Thai troops - fighting troops - who violated about one kilometre into Cambodian territory," Cambodian government cabinet spokesman Phay Siphan told AFP.

The Thai soldiers crossed into Cambodia about two kilometres away from the ancient Preah Vihear temple at about 1:45 pm (0645 GMT), he said.

The spokesman and the Cambodian military later said the Thai troops pulled back from the area after talks between Cambodian and Thai commanders.




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