Thailand’s Domestic Politics Drives Cambodian Border Clash

Thailand’s Domestic Politics Drives Cambodian Border Clash

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- Since the morning of April 22, Thai and Cambodian troops have waged a series of heated firefights along sections of their shared border. The two sides have now traded artillery and small-arms fire for a week, leaving at least 13 soldiers dead on both sides and forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from border areas. The initial skirmishes were confined to areas close to Ta Krabey and Ta Moan, two Angkorian temple ruins lying close to the border, but the fighting quickly spread to Preah Vihear, a cliff-top temple some 93 miles to the east.

Military commanders from the two sides met early this morning, and the Cambodian government subsequently announced that a cease-fire had been reached. But Thai military commander suggested that questions remained over how to enforce the deal, which, like others before it, remains fragile.

As on past occasions, both governments have accused each other of starting the skirmishes. In a letter to the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, Cambodia decried the "repeated violations of Cambodian sovereignty and territorial integrity by Thailand," adding that the country "reserves its legitimate rights to self-defense." The same day, the Thai cabinet passed a three-point resolution authorizing "retaliatory military action" to push Cambodian troops out of disputed areas.

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