Thursday, 10 February 2011

Sondhi urges Thai military to seize Angkor Wat in exchange for Preah Vihear (The World Should read this Article)

Rogue and warmonger Sondhi Limthongkul

Wed, 09/02/2011
By prachatai (Thailand)

Yellow-shirt leader Sondhi Limthongkul has urged the Thai military to seize Cambodian territory, including Angkor Wat, to barter for Preah Vihear Temple.

On 7 Feb, Sondhi spoke to supporters of the People’s Alliance for Democracy gathering at Makkhawan Bridge next to Government House.

He said that in a war campaign, Thailand, if it had a strong premier, would have tried to take a military advantage before conducting any negotiations, but even this was beyond Abhisit Vejjajiva’s wit.

The PAD has predicted in advance that there will be a prolonged war with the potential to escalate further, because Hun Sen has assigned his 33-year-old son to take command of the conflict, he said.

Abhisit has always said that he insists that the watershed demarcates the border between Thailand and Cambodia, but has allowed Cambodia to refer to the 1:200,000 map. He is a weak prime minister. Otherwise, he would have ordered the Thai armed forces to push back Cambodian soldiers from Thai territory, and tried to take advantage by letting the Air Force show its power, before starting any negotiations, he said.

The Thai armed forces should move forward to seize Battambang, Siem Riap, Angkor Wat and Koh Kong. And then, in negotiations which would be arbitrated by China and ASEAN, Thailand would barter them for Preah Vihear and force Cambodia to adopt the watershed for border demarcation instead of the 1:200,000 map, according to Sondhi.

He said that a diplomatic approach should not be used in a military campaign. Thailand must take the most advantageous position before any negotiation, and it is not making war with China or Vietnam, but with Cambodia which has no warships. Thailand must wield its greater military power when it has to.

‘[To] whoever says that we’re mad for war, none of us sitting here want our children to [go to war and] die, but to die for a great cause, to protect the land, is worth it. We have 300,000 soldiers who are better equipped than Cambodian soldiers, but we lack the guts, because the senior military figures serve evil politicians. Today, [Defence Minister] Gen Pravit Wongsuwan is not a soldier, but a politician who says anything for political gain.’

Thai soldiers have been killed today because Thai generals are not decisive because it conflicts with their own interests, such as exporting petrol to Cambodia or selling goods along the border. The Thai military must hold on to the nation and the throne, not Gen Pravit, because nothing is more important than the nation, the King and the Queen, he said.

Hun Sen bully boy: Kasit (Come on Kasit be a gentleman.... you sound like a kid)

via CAAI

By The Nation

Kasit labels Cambodian PM as bully boy, expresses suspicion Russia, India, China behind Cambodia's aggressiveness

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya Wednesday called Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen a bully boy who launched attacks against Thailand with hope to seize control of the disputed plot near Preah Vihear Temple.

Kasit was speaking at a seminar on Thai-Cambodian relationship at Parliament held by the Senate committee on foreign affairs.

Kasit told the seminar that the conflicts between the two countries happened because the Cambodian government incited hatred among its people towards Thailand.

Kasit said the Cambodian government told its people that Thailand had been bullying Cambodia during the past 600 and 700 years.

"Cambodian people were told that Thailand has been hitting Cambodians' head throughout 600 or 700 years," Kasit said.

Kasit said Thailand should have learnt a lesson from Cambodia winning the world court's ruling related to the Preah Vihear temple.

He added that although Cambodia may seek another ruling of the world court over the disputed 4.5 kilometre plot near the temple, the problem would not end "because Cambodia is using Thailand as a political tool".

Kasit said Cambodin now aimed only at completing the world heritage registration process of the ancient Hindu temple and seeking ownership of the 4.6 square km plot.

"But he may think that the Thai government is too slow to act on the dispute because the Thai government must first win approval from Parliament before carrying out any action. He may think that the prime minister is collaborating with Parliament to drag feet on the issue," Kasit said.

"So a way to push for what he wants fast is to start a severe battle like what happened on 4 February. And he did it successfully probably with help from other countries like Russia, India and China. Then, Cambodia filed a complaint with the UN Security Council," Kasit said, adding that he will travel to explain the issue to the council on February 14.

"I am ready to defend Thailand in all venues. We should not forget that we have the US a true friend.

"Although Cambodia created perception that it was harassed by Thailand and tried to win sympathy from the International Community, Thailand would not allow Hun Sen, a bully boy, to bully Thailand," Kasit said.

"Now, we have a bully boy harassing us near out house but we are a kind-hearted adult and allow Cambodians to enter our country without the need to get visa first."

Villagers rally to call on PAD to stay away


via CAAI

Published: 10/02/2011

SI SA KET : Plans by the People's Alliance for Democracy to visit a village bordering Cambodia tomorrow are running into stiff opposition from local people.

Villagers from Ban Phum Srol staged a rally yesterday to denounce the visit.

"You have created the war. You troubled us. We don't welcome you," said Wichit Duangkaew, 46, yesterday of the PAD, attributing the latest skirmish between Thai and Cambodian soldiers to the yellow shirts' rally being held in Bangkok.

The PAD began its street demonstration on Jan 25 to pile pressure on the Abhisit Vejjajiva government to submit to several demands including the ejection of Cambodians from overlapping border areas that the group claims belong to Thailand and the revocation of the memorandum of understanding signed in 2000 with Cambodia on border demarcation negotiations.

A clash between Thai and Cambodian soldiers erupted on Friday last week near Phum Srol village in Si Sa Ket's Kantharalak district. One villager was killed and many buildings in the village were damaged.

The clash forced villagers to flee for their safety, leaving the village almost deserted.

"When Cambodian solders fired missiles and artillery pieces at us, were you [the PAD] with us?" Mr Wichit asked.

The PAD has announced it planned to visit Thai soldiers and villagers in Kantharalak district to boost their morale and hand out aid supplies.

Key PAD leader Chamlong Srimuang insisted yesterday his group would not cancel its visit tomorrow. Members of a PAD-appointed committee on territorial defence would take relief supplies to Kantharalak district office about 5pm.

Chokchai Saikaew, head of Sao Thongchai tambon administration organisation, believed the villagers would not oppose the visit if it was aimed at helping victims. But they would lose patience if the PAD set up a stage and talked about the border conflict.

The PAD-affiliated Thai Patriots Network decided early last month to call off a rally near the border with Cambodia in Sa Kaeo province after it ran into fierce opposition from villagers in Khok Sung district.

The group planned to mobilise people, including PAD supporters in the province, to join the rally aimed at putting pressure on Phnom Penh to release seven Thais arrested in December on charges of illegally entering Cambodia.

Villagers in Khok Sung, the district close to the area where the Thais were arrested, staged a counter-rally to oppose the group's move.

Like the Ban Phum Srol villagers, residents of Khok Sung did not want the network to worsen the border conflict.

The dispute involving the detained Thais caused them a great deal of trouble. The border was closed and Cambodian labourers were unable to report to work in Sa Kaeo.

Five of the seven detainees have been convicted of illegal entry and released. The government is finding ways to help Thai Patriots Network coordinator and PAD key figure Veera Somkhwamkid and his secretary, Ratree Pipatanapaiboon, who remain in a Cambodian jail after they were convicted of espionage.

Suthep rejects French help


via CAAI

Published: 10/02/2011

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban has turned down an offer by France to help resolve the border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia.

Deputy Prime Minister and Democrat Party secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban

He said Thailand and Cambodia can settle their border dispute without any other country acting as mediator.

Mr Suthep insisted the Thai government wants peace and does not want the conflict to escalate.

He said it is not uncommon for neighbouring countries to have some problems between them, but leaders of the two countries must try to rapidly and peacefully settle the conflict.

The deputy prime minister in charge of security affairs admitted that he was afraid that any involvement by France would lead to a further loss of Thai territory, as happened in 1962 when Thailand lost the ancient Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia by a ruling of the international court.

The spokesman of French foreign ministry said on Wednesday that Paris was willing to mediate a settlement to the border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia.

The spokesman said his ministry was ready to provide the map showing Thai and Cambodian territory prepared for making the 1907 treaty between France and Siam, as Thailand was then called, to help resolve the conflict.

wrThe Reasons Behind the Thai-Cambodia Conflict


A Cambodian solider stands guard along the grounds of the ancient Preah Vihear temple on February 9. (Photo: Getty Images)

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By PAVIN CHACHAVALPONGPUN / ASIA SENTINEL
Thursday, February 10, 2011

For centuries, the ancient Preah Vihear temple, a Hindu masterpiece, has stood largely unmolested on a cliff overlooking the Thai-Cambodian border. However, over past three years, the temple has been an increasing point of conflict between Thailand and Cambodia that appears to be fomented for purely domestic political motives.

And, in the latest dust-up, events have demonstrated the relative weakness of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who is clearly unable to control his own military, and of the Asean, which appears to have little or no influence in stopping the conflict.

Unconfirmed reports have circulated in both Bangkok and Phnom Penh about the reasons behind the clashes even though the two countries’ armies earlier agreed to call for a truce over the temple, which was awarded to the Cambodians by the International Court of Justice in 1962. Some sources say there was a lack of communication between the Thai government and the military. While Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva appeared to prefer a diplomatic option to resolve the crisis, the military decided to use force instead.

There is also a conspiracy theory. The People’s Alliance for Democracy – the royalist Yellow Shirts—is said to be now working with the military to weaken the Abhisit government, apparently because the two parties were not happy with the prime minister’s enthusiasm to call for an election as soon as April. According to this theory, the military in particular fears that this would diminish its role in politics, too soon. The roots of the most recent cross-border conflict can be found in the decision by a joint PAD-Democrat Party team to cross into Cambodia, where they were promptly arrested. One PAD member, Veera Somkwamkit, remains in a Cambodian prison.

Meanwhile, some local residents on the Thai-Cambodian border reportedly said that the Thai military was fed up with the way the Abhisit government has handled the territorial dispute issue. On Feb. 4, Thai and Cambodian troops experienced their worst clash, a violent conflict that included gunfire and artillery duels, killing at least two Thais and eight Cambodians. Some 3,120 Thais were evacuated from a village close to where the incident took place. The temple itself was damaged by artillery fire from Thai guns.

Thus, to express its frustration, the military chose to fire artillery into the Preah Vihear Temple, damaging it and earning condemnation for Thailand for its thoughtless behavior, which could ultimately destroy the centuries-old World Heritage site.

In Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen exploited the armed clashes to strengthen his power position by displaying his nationalistic emotions. The last time Hun Sen displayed his love for the Cambodian motherland, it cost Thailand its embassy in Phnom Penh in 2003. Then, Hun Sen was accused of being reluctant to intervene in an arson attack against the Thai diplomatic mission by so-called Cambodian nationalists. Analysts saw the incident as Hun Sen’s plot to divert domestic issues which could ruin his chance in the upcoming election.

It has also been reported that the scale of devastation on the Cambodian side as a result of the fresh clashes was massive. Hun Sen appears certain to retaliate. Thailand will have to wait and see how Thai-Cambodian relations will go from here.

While the latest confrontation is certainly the work of domestic politics in Thailand and Cambodia, it has engendered a negative impact on Asean, of which the two countries are members. Immediately, Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan urged the two to find a peaceful solution.

"I am deeply concerned about the serious situation on the border between Thailand and Cambodia," Surin said. "This violent conflict must be brought under control and return to negotiating table soonest."

He also added, "I have been in touch with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cambodia Hor Namhong, and the Foreign Minister of Thailand, Kasit Piromya, and I have appealed for calm, maximum restraint on both sides, and expressed my fervent desire to see both sides return to a negotiating table as soon as possible."

As members of Asean, Thailand and Cambodia have broken the group’s tradition of consultation and cooperation in time of bilateral crisis, and in particular, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) in which all member states commit themselves to peaceful settlement of disputes.

The aggressive behavior has also challenged the Asean charter.

As stipulated in Article 22, "Member states shall endeavour to resolve peacefully all disputes in a timely manner through dialogue, consultation and negotiation, and Asean shall maintain and establish dispute settlement mechanisms in all fields of Asean cooperation."

Surin has thus called the two sides to allow the treaty organization to help bring them to some form of a temporary truce and cool down the emotions and temper so that a higher interest of both peoples and that of Asean can be protected and enhanced. Surin stressed, "The situation has escalated into open conflict. And that will definitely affect our economic development, confidence in our region, and tourism and prospect for foreign investment, which have just been picking up in light of the world economic recovery."

In the past, while Thailand expressed its preference to deal with the conflict strictly on a bilateral basis, Cambodia frequently has turned to the United Nations for help. This time too, Cambodia has filed a complaint at the United Nations Security Council over the "Thai invasion". Both bypassed regional dispute settlement mechanisms, thus revealing their lack of faith and confidence in Asean.

Often criticised as a mere talking-shop, Asean could prevent itself from being perceived as a laughing stock in the eyes of the global community if its members would allow this regional organization to play its rightful and legitimate role, particularly in dispute settlement. Many anticipate a new role played by Indonesia, as Asean chairman this year, to step up its diplomatic efforts to aid the two sides to arrive at a temporary solution, at least to allow the existing bilateral mechanisms between them to accomplish their objectives of border demarcation and a general peace in the areas.

If Indonesia succeeds in bringing Thailand and Cambodia back to the negotiation table, not only will this effort boost the authority of the current Asean chairman, it will also prove to the critics that Asean has indeed become a mature organisation. That may well prove unlikely, however.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun is a fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. He is the author of Reinventing Thailand: Thaksin and His Foreign Policy. The views expressed here are his own.

Battle weary villagers in mixed emotions

via CAAI

By Pravit Rojanaphruk
The Nation
Kantharalak, Si Sa Ket
Published on February 10, 2011

As more than a dozen military vehicles were being deployed near the Thai-Cambodian border yesterday and some villagers cheered and waved to offer moral support, a separate group of 30 villagers who were evacuated from the Phum Saron village demanded angrily that the clashes be brought to an end.

The tanks arrived at Kantharalak district early yesterday morning with confident and guardedly relaxed looking soldiers.

"This is the best tank in Asia," one young soldier boasted to The Nation as he drove the tank off the trailer and went back and forth in billows of black smoke. Villagers came to stare and wave.

About four hours later, some 30 evacuees from the Phum Saron village came out holding placards with angry messages demanding peace. These people have been living in a hot, uncomfortable camp for nearly a week and want no more trouble, especially not from the nationalist People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which is considering a visit to the border town.

One of the banners read: "We want peace. We don't want the PAD."

Their leader Visit Duangkaew told Si Sa Ket's Deputy Governor Charnchana Iamsaeng that the villagers would not guarantee the safety of PAD leaders such as Chamlong Srimuang, if they insist on dropping by.

"All of this is happening due to people like Chamlong," he said angrily. "We will continue having trouble if he [Chamlong] comes over, though he won't be affected if he stays in Bangkok."

The deputy governor tried to calm down the villagers by saying he had heard the PAD leaders had changed their minds.

UNSC to hear border claims


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Cambodian PM accuses Abhisit of war crimes

Published: 10/02/2011  

Thailand and Cambodia have agreed to address the UN Security Council on Monday as part of efforts to resolve the border conflict.

M60A1 tanks are transported to Si Sa Ket’s Kantharalak district to reinforce troops along the Cambodian border following clashes over four days starting last Friday near Preah Vihear temple. JETJARAS NA RANONG

The meeting is expected to present an opportunity for Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya to come face to face with his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong to discuss a solution.

Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Thani Thongpakdi said the UNSC had invited the Asean chairman, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, Mr Kasit and Hor Namhong to clarify events surrounding the recent military clashes and the issues dogging efforts to find a solution to the border problem.

Mr Kasit would take the opportunity to discuss solutions with Hor Namhong on the sidelines of the meeting, Mr Thani said.

The spokesman reiterated the UNSC was not acting as a mediator but both sides had agreed that if they present the facts directly to the world body, it would be useful for the council.

Despite apparent headway in diplomatic efforts, tensions remained evident on both sides of the border near Preah Vihear temple yesterday.

More heavy armament was seen being deployed along the border by both countries which has raised concern over possible renewed fighting.

More than 30 M60A1 tanks from the Lop Buri-based 5th Cavalry Battalion rolled into Si Sa Ket's Kantharalak district yesterday morning, much to the excitement of local residents.

A large number of troop reinforcements were mobilised in the province under what the army called a "territorial defence plan".

An army source said the mobilisation of extra forces was intended to send a signal to Cambodia and back the Foreign Ministry's and the government's planned talks with Phnom Penh.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen indicated yesterday he had no intention of backing down soon, accusing Thailand of committing war crimes in the four days of cross border shelling that resulted in at least eight deaths and scores of injuries on both sides.

He and Cambodia's deputy army chief, Gen Hing Bunheang, also accused Thailand of using cluster bombs during the clashes, according to the Phnom Penh Post. Thai army sources furiously denied the claims, saying only conventional weapons were being used.

"Thailand is making this war, not Cambodia, and Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva must take responsibility for these war crimes," Hun Sen said, adding the conflict was not just an armed clash but a "real war".

"The shelling at the temple and pagoda are one among the war crimes," he said. "We have to take prolonged action, not just one or two days to finish it ... We have to make a long-term strategy to struggle with Thailand ... To struggle with Thailand takes not one day, one year, [but] many years," the Cambodian leader was quoted by Phnom Penh Post as saying.

Prime Minister Abhisit said yesterday he affirmed with United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon that Thailand exercised the right to defend itself when the border clashes erupted.

He said Thai retaliation was proportionate with Cambodia's use of force and it did not target civilians in the military offensive.

He told the UN chief in a telephone call that over 10,000 villagers were evacuated for safety reasons.

He said he was ready to send photos to the United Nations to prove that Preah Vihear temple was being used to mount attacks on Thailand.

The UN chief inquired about the damage to Preah Vihear and agreed to discuss the issue with Unesco, Mr Abhisit said.

"I reminded him of what I told him last year. The listing and the management plan would intensify the tension. The UN chief agreed to discuss the matter with Unesco," he said.

Mr Abhisit said the dispute could still be resolved through bilateral talks as widely anticipated.

"The defence ministers of both countries have agreed to hold talks. So the efforts to resolve the issue at the bilateral level, as the UN wants to see, are still on," he said.

Mr Abhisit expressed confidence that the UN was likely to support attempts to resolve the border conflict at the bilateral level.

Cambodia Conflict Clouds Thai Vote .

http://online.wsj.com/

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By JAMES HOOKWAY

BANGKOK—Thailand Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Wednesday he plans to call national elections by the middle of this year, even as a border conflict with Cambodia threatens to complicate his party's bid to remain in power.

At least eight people have been killed in skirmishes that began Friday near Preah Vihear Temple along Thailand's border with Cambodia. Thousands in the area have fled their homes.

Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
A Cambodian monk looked out from inside the Preah Vihear Temple Tuesday.

The sporadic violence has prompted the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to send a team to assess damage to the 1,000-year-old Hindu temple, which was designated as a Unesco World Heritage site in 2008 and is regarded as a high point of the Khmer civilization that once dominated much of mainland Southeast Asia. The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to discuss the issue Monday.

Thailand and Cambodia have wrestled for years over the temple, and over more than 4.6 square kilometers, about 1.8 square miles, of nearby land that allows easy access to the site and so controls tourism revenue. The International Court of Justice awarded Cambodia control over the temple in 1962, but didn't rule on the land.

Ownership of this patch of land has become especially politicized in both countries recently. In Thailand, protesters have surrounded government headquarters in Bangkok, demanding Mr. Abhisit do more to support the Thai claim to the site.

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen also has used the issue domestically to burnish his nationalist credentials.

Political analysts say the dispute is a double-edged sword for Mr. Abhisit, raising questions about whether he can proceed with planned elections and bring long-term stability to one of Southeast Asia's linchpin economies.

In mid-January, Mr. Abhisit appeared to be in full campaign mode, launching a heavily publicized welfare program live on television. Under Thai law, Mr. Abhisit must call elections by the end of this year, and analysts say he is eager to do so quickly in hopes of establishing his own popular mandate. He was elected premier by Thailand's parliament in late 2008.

Mr. Abhisit, 46 years old, also faces continuing criticism for his government's response to massive street protests in Bangkok last April and May against his government and in support of populist former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a military coup in 2006. More than 90 people were killed, many by security forces that established live-fire zones in some of the city's most affluent neighborhoods.

Protesters were calling for early elections, and some analysts say even now elections would help resolve Thailand's problems and restore Mr. Abhisit's standing.

Although analysts have long believed supporters of Mr. Thaksin would easily win a national election, some have begun to question that assumption. Thailand stabilized following last year's protests and posted strong economic growth in the second half of the year, which could improve Mr. Abhisit's chances. But waiting until late in the year could give opponents time to regain momentum, especially as economic growth is expected to weaken amid rising inflation.

On Wednesday Mr. Abhisit told a closed-door gathering of investors in Bangkok that he intends to hold a vote in the first half of the year.

"The prime minister has made it clear he will not stay until the end of his term, and the election will be held within the first half of the year," says a government statement summarizing Mr. Abhisit's remarks.

But some people familiar with the situation say some members of the armed forces and other Thaksin opponents—worried that elections might return Mr. Thaksin's supporters to power—may seek to disrupt election plans by distracting Mr. Abhisit with the Cambodia issue.

"I would say the internal politics in Thailand are very much responsible for what's happening on the border with Cambodia," says a prominent Thai academic, Pavin Chachavalpongpun. "That's not to say the conflict wouldn't happen without it, but it is a significant factor."

The Thai and Cambodian armed forces blame each other for triggering the conflict. But whichever side started it, the standoff could make it more difficult for Mr. Abhisit to hold a national vote, despite his announcement Wednesday.

Though the prime minister intends to call an early election, says his acting spokesman, Panitan Wattanayagorn, "there need to be three elements in place before he can do that: an economic recovery, some constitutional amendments due to be voted on this Friday, and a peaceful overall environment."

Mr. Panitan says Thailand's government and armed forces are in constant communication, but that "peaceful environment" is bit of a stumbling block at the moment.

Although Mr. Thaksin is now living overseas to escape imprisonment on a 2008 corruption conviction—which he dismisses as politically motivated—he and his populist policies still have a strong following in vote-rich parts of north and northeastern Thailand.

In recent months crowds of up to 40,000 antigovernment Red Shirt protesters, many allied with Mr. Thaksin, have rallied in Bangkok pressing for new elections and the release of protest leaders arrested and charged with terrorism during last May's marathon rally. The size of the crowds caught many government and security officials off guard.

Write to James Hookway at james.hookway@wsj.com  

AKP - The Agence Kampuchea Press


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Cambodia’s Reaction to Bangkok Post Newspaper Online

Phnom Penh, February 9, 2011 AKP – The spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia has issued a statement in response to the Bangkok Post newspaper online.

The full statement dated today reads as follows:

“The Bangkok Post newspaper online today (09 February 2011) said: ‘Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said he spoke with his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong yesterday and they agreed to hold talks in a third country.’

In this regard, I wish to emphasize that HE Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, did not speak with Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya. But yesterday afternoon Thai ambassador met HE Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong to convey a proposal of HE Kasit Piromya.

So far HE Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong has not responded to the proposal yet as this Issue is currently in the hand of the United Nations Security Council.” –AKP

______

UNESCO To Send Mission to Preah Vihear

Phnom Penh, February 9, 2011 AKP – The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, yesterday reiterated her call for calm and restraint around the Temple of Preah Vihear, inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2008, according to UNESCOPRESS.

A border dispute between Cambodia and Thailand caused several deaths and damage to the site in recent days.

“I intend to send a mission to the area as soon as possible to assess the state of the temple,” she said. “World Heritage sites are the heritage of all humanity and the international community has a special responsibility to safeguard them. This requires a collective effort that must be undertaken in a spirit of consultation and dialogue. Heritage should unite people and serve as an instrument of dialogue and mutual understanding and not of conflict.”

The Temple of Preah Vihear, dedicated to Shiva, is composed of a series of sanctuaries linked by a system of pavements and staircases over an 800-metre-long axis; it dates back to the first half of the 11th century AD. The site is exceptional for the quality of its carved stone ornamentation and its architecture, adapted to the natural environment and the religious function of the temple. –AKP

______

Foreign Ambassadors Informed of Thai Encroachment on Cambodian territory

Phnom Penh February 9, 2011 AKP – Deputy Prime Minister H.E. Hor Namhong on Monday invited ambassadors of the member countries of the UN Security Council and charg├ęs d’affaires of different countries to Cambodia to inform them of the Thai invasion into Cambodian territory.

“I showed them the internationally-recognized map and the unilaterally-drawn map by Thailand,” said H.E. Hor Namhong, also Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

Thailand has never opposed to the Dangrek Map (Annex I) used by the International Court of Justice in the Hague until the Khmer Temple of Preah Vihear was inscribed as a World Heritage Site, he explained.

H.E. Hor Namhong also informed his guests of the successive Thai encroachment on Cambodian territory, especially the recent invasion despite negotiations by both sides’ military field commanders on a ceasefire.

Last week, he added, Thai prime minister, foreign minister and military commanders said that the use of force would be the last option. “That means they are ready to send troops to the border and to use force to resolve the border issue,” H.E. Hor Namhong stressed. –AKP

By SOKMOM Nimul

Security Council Report: Update Report No. 1 Thailand/Cambodia

http://www.securitycouncilreport.org/

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Expected Council Action
Council members are taking seriously the clashes between the Thai and Cambodian military in the vicinity of the Preah Vihear temple complex on the Thailand-Cambodia border. Unlike past Council responses to similar events on the Thai-Cambodian border, this time Council members have not been deterred from taking up the issue.

The Council has requested the Secretariat to brief on 14 February and will invite Thailand and Cambodia to participate in the meeting. The current chair of ASEAN, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, will also be invited to participate. The format of the meeting will be decided following consultations between the president of the Council and the delegations of Thailand and Cambodia.

Background
There is a long-running border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over territory in the vicinity of Preah Vihear, a temple complex dating from the 11th century. The site sits atop a ridge on the Thai-Cambodia border overlooking the plain of Cambodia in the north-west.

In 1959 the dispute was referred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). In 1962 the ICJ ruled (in a 9-3 decision) that the area in the vicinity of Preah Vihear was part of Cambodian territory, based upon maps that had been prepared in 1907 by a joint border commission established by Siam and the French colonial authorities in Cambodia. While the ICJ ruling meant the temple complex was in Cambodian territory, the geography of the area determines that the most easily accessible entrance to the complex is in Thailand. Thailand accepts Cambodia's sovereignty over Preah Vihear. However land surrounding the temple remains in dispute.

In 2007 Cambodia applied for the temple complex to be listed as a UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation World Heritage site. The temple complex was listed on 8 July 2008, despite formal objections from Thailand. Tension between the two countries mounted. In July 2008 Thailand and Cambodia both moved troops into and close to the disputed area. Several incidents followed, such as when troops exchanged fire in October 2008. The dispute has become a rallying point of nationalism in both countries.

Past Council Action and Dynamics
Both Cambodia and Thailand wrote to the Council in 2008 following the escalation of tension in July 2008 (S/2008/470 and S/2008/474 respectively). In a subsequent letter (S/2008/475) Cambodia urged the Council to convene an urgent meeting with the participation of their Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hor Namhong. Thailand preferred reliance on bilateral mechanisms to resolve the confrontation (S/2008/478 and S/2008/490). Eventually both sides agreed to discuss the issue through the Joint Border Commission established earlier to survey and demarcate the entire Thai-Cambodian border.

In 2008 there was little appetite on the part of Council members to take up the issue. In part the hesitancy related to the fact that the request for involvement had come from only one side of the dispute. Furthermore, Viet Nam, a member of the ten-nation ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations of which both Cambodia and Thailand are members), was on the Council and persuaded other members that it was preferable to allow bilateral discussions to take priority. A letter from the then-Chair of ASEAN, the foreign minister of Singapore, to the foreign minister of Cambodia copied to all ASEAN members said, “ASEAN Foreign Ministers are fully mindful that how this issue is handled will greatly affect ASEAN’s credibility. They also emphasised to me that if the parties are too quick to resort to the UN Security Council, this would do harm to ASEAN’s standing and may actually make the resolution of the issue more difficult” (S/2008/478).

Key Recent Developments
From 4 to 7 February 2011 there were exchanges of fire between soldiers from Thailand and Cambodia. At least eight people were killed and thousands displaced. Cambodian authorities have claimed that Thai artillery fire has damaged a wing of the temple, which is disputed by Thai authorities.

The clashes may have been prompted by rising tensions associated with the sentencing by a Cambodian court on 1 February of two members of a Thai nationalist movement to up to eight years in prison after finding them guilty of espionage. The two were among seven Thai politicians and activists charged with illegal entry by Cambodia after crossing into a disputed border area on 29 December 2010.

Following the outbreak of fighting both Thailand and Cambodia sent the president of the Security Council letters on 5 February (S/2011/56 and S/2011/57) describing the incidents that had taken place on 4 and 5 February. On 6 February Cambodia wrote to the Council president again documenting the continued attacks on the border and citing how they violated international law (S/2011/58). The Cambodian letter also asked the Council to convene an "urgent meeting" to stop "Thailand's aggression". On 7 February Thailand wrote a second letter to the president of the Council (S/2011/59) giving Thailand's position on the latest developments. The letter also reiterated Thailand’s commitment to using bilateral frameworks and channels of communication to resolve the situation.

The current Chair of ASEAN, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, met with Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in Phnom Penh on 7 February. Natalegawa met the Thai Foreign Minister, Kasit Piromya, on 8 February in Bangkok. Following these meetings Natalegawa said that ASEAN supported the two neighbours working out a bilateral solution to end the dispute.

On 7 February Security Council members held consultations on the issue under “other matters”. Subsequently the president of the Council, Ambassador of Brazil Maria Luiza Viotti, conveyed to the press some agreed elements, confirming that:

•the Council had taken cognisance of the letters received from the Governments of Cambodia and Thailand concerning the military incident on the border between the two countries— one letter from Cambodia requested an urgent meeting of the Council;
•the members of the Council had expressed grave concern at the aggravation of the tensions on the border and called for a ceasefire and urged parties to resolved the situation peacefully;
•the members expressed support to the mediation efforts undertaken by the chair of ASEAN, the Foreign Minister of Indonesia, but expressed willingness to hold a Council meeting pending an assessment of the ongoing regional mediation efforts; and
•members of the Council would continue to follow this issue closely.
On 8 February Viotti received an update from Natalegawa and briefed Council members in closed consultations (again under “other matters”). It seems Council members decided a briefing from the Secretariat on the situation should be the next step.

On 8 February the Director-General of UNESCO announced that a mission would visit the temple complex to assess if there had been any damage.

Council Dynamics
It seems that unlike in 2008 Council members are united in viewing the hostilities on the Thai-Cambodian border as a threat to international peace and security and one on which the Council needs to exercise its responsibilities.

On 7 February several members of the Council urged holding a briefing. However, others felt that it was important to allow Natalegawa’s mediation efforts to have some effect. The complications of the 12 hour time difference were also a factor. Accordingly at that time it was agreed to release elements to the press that emphasised to both parties that holding a meeting was a concrete possibility and that the Council was following developments closely.

It seems Council members consider the objective of the meeting on 14 February should be to boost and complement the regional and bilateral efforts, rather than signal that those efforts have failed in any way.

It seems that the more robust approach in the Council in 2011 reflects a number of factors. First, the composition of the Council is different. Second, the impact on civilians is serious and there have been fatalities. And third, the Council in 2011 contains a number of members who are keen that the Council should be more focused on issues between states—the traditional role of the Council. And the appearance of such an issue gives an opportunity to emphasise that point.

Thailand blames Russia over military support to Cambodia

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­Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya has blamed Russia and other countries for their alleged assistance to Cambodia during the recent military clashes at the border between the two countries. "Russia, India and China might have backed Cambodia's aggression against Thailand on February 4, and now Cambodia is taking the issue to the UN Security Council”, Kasit Piromya said, as reported by the Nation newspaper. Cambodia and Thailand have a long-running dispute over their common border territory. Recent military clashes, which involved artillery and rockets, took the lives of 12 people, both military and civil. The UN Security Council will consider the issue on Feb 14 in New York.

UN Security Council likely to discuss Thailand, Cambodia row

Cambodian soldiers at the Preah Vihear temple yesterday. Thailand and Cambodia are facing diplomatic pressure to end their standoff. REUTERS

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Feb 10, 2011PREAH VIHEAR - Thailand and Cambodia faced growing diplomatic pressure yesterday to end a standoff on a stretch of border surrounding an ancient temple, as Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen declared their recent clashes a "real war".

Mr Hun Sen said the damage sustained by the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple constituted a war crime - indicating he has no intention of backing down despite a fragile truce that has silenced guns for two days.

"Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva must be held responsible for war crimes," he said, adding that the conflict was not just an armed clash.

Each country blames the other for starting the fighting last Friday which set off several days of artillery duels, leaving at least eight people dead.

Dozens of soldiers were wounded and thousands of civilians evacuated to safety, before fighting eased on Monday.

Diplomats at the United Nations Security Council said it could discuss the issue next week after the United States, China and the Association of South-east Asian Nations urged both sides to show restraint.

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya will fly to New York on Monday for a meeting with his Cambodian counterpart, Mr Hor Namhong, as well as Indonesian Foreign Minister and Asean envoy Marty Natalegawa.

Mr Kasit's secretary said the three foreign ministers would then explain the conflict to the UN Security Council chairman. AGENCIES

Cambodia, Thailand to face UN over border dispute

Villagers gather to receive food from the Cambodian Red Cross at a camp after fleeing from their home

A nurse (L) offer medicine to villagers at a school camp after fleeing from their homes

Cambodian soldiers ride a motorbike as the sun rises over a village near Preah Vihear temple

VIA caai
PHNOM PENH — Diplomatic efforts to resolve a festering border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia gained momentum on Wednesday, with the two adversaries set to address the UN Security Council next week.

Thailand also raised the possibility of the first face-to-face talks between the two countries' foreign ministers since the deadly clashes erupted on Friday with a volley of shelling in disputed jungle surrounding a 900-year-old temple.

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya will brief members of the Security Council on Monday on the rift, an aide said, adding that a meeting with his Cambodian opposite number Hor Namhong on the sidelines was "possible".

In Phnom Penh, Prime Minister Hun Sen said his top diplomat was preparing documents for the UN meeting.

At least eight people were killed in four days of cross-border violence, which forced thousands of families to flee on both sides of the frontier.

Each side blames the other for starting the fighting but both have held fire since the last skirmish early Monday.

The 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, built to honour the Hindu god Shiva, has been a source of contention between Thailand and Cambodia since it was granted UN World Heritage status in July 2008.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that the clifftop structure belonged to Cambodia but both countries claim ownership of a 4.6-square-kilometre (1.8-square-mile) surrounding area.

Shrapnel and artillery fire appear to have scarred Preah Vihear, although no structural damage is visible, according to an AFP photographer who visited the site.

The world heritage body UNESCO said it was planning a mission to the area "as soon as possible" to assess the state of the temple, the most celebrated example of ancient Khmer architecture outside of Cambodia's Angkor Wat.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke with both prime ministers on Tuesday and said he again offered UN help to negotiate a deal to end the clashes.

Thailand has said it sees no need for third-party mediation, while Cambodia has insisted on it.

"I told Ban Ki-moon these are not armed clashes. This is a war," Hun Sen said in a speech in the Cambodian capital.

"This war will be resolved through the mechanism of the United Nations."

He said Cambodia was no longer interested in bilateral meetings. "But we will continue to negotiate peacefully" with the presence of a third party, he added.

With a lull in violence, the UN Security Council has held back from formal talks on the unrest to give time to a mediation bid by Indonesia, chair of the ASEAN regional bloc, diplomats in New York said.

Marty Natalegawa, foreign minister of Indonesia -- the current ASEAN chair -- held talks with his counterparts from both countries earlier this week and according to Hun Sen will also attend the New York meeting.

It is unclear exactly what triggered the latest violence, but diplomatic frictions have grown since late December when seven Thais, including one lawmaker, were arrested by Cambodia near the border for illegal entry.

Both Thailand and Cambodia have written to the UN Security Council twice about the border unrest.

Cambodia has called for a UN buffer force to be put on the border and for an urgent Security Council meeting on the clashes, while Bangkok has accused Phnom Penh of seeking the "internationalisation" of the conflict.

Big 3 top leaders to go to Cambodia for 'peace talks'

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PURNA BASNET

HONGKONG, Feb 10: Top leaders of the three major political parties in Nepal are scheduled to reach Cambodia to discuss the peace process that has been marred lately by political misunderstandings.

Newly-elected Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal along with Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Nepali Congress President Sushil Koirala are going to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, to take part in ´peace talks´ related to Nepal being organized jointly by the Cambodian government and the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAP) at February-end.

It is learnt that representatives of Japan, China and India will be present as observers at the talks between the three senior leaders.

Prime Minister Khanal has already said that his first visit abroad after assuming the post of prime minister would be to Cambodia. Khanal had received an invitation in his capacity as chairman of the CPN-UML prior to his becoming prime minister.

Sources said Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is sending a separate invitation to Prime Minister Khanal to make his visit an official one.

Outgoing prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal had also visited Cambodia some two months ago to take part in the sixth general assembly of ICAP.

ICAP, in its official website, has termed the talks on Nepal ´informal´ and claimed that the date of the meeting was scheduled to suit the convenience of all three top leaders. Details of the program, however, have not been disclosed.

This will probably be the second such talks in a foreign land after political party leaders inked a 12-point deal in New Delhi, India, back in 2005. Though the New Delhi talks included only representatives from India, the talks in Cambodia will have representatives from India, China and Japan as observers.

A three-member ICAP delegation that arrived in Kathmandu on January 19 had fixed the date and venue of the talks after holding consultations with the political party leaders concerned. Senior UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal is the representative from Nepal in the South Korea-based organization.

A Standing Committee meeting of ICAP held two months ago had decided to organize peace talks in order to resolve the deadlock in the ongoing peace process in Nepal. Accordingly, ICAP sent a delegation to Nepal to fix the date and venue for the talks.

ICAP is also planning to organize similar talks in some other countries for the leaders of India and Pakistan to resolve the long running stand-off between the two neighbors.

Published on 2011-02-10

Cardiologist and Author Dr. Mark Sheehan Leads Medical Missions Trip to Cambodia

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Team to Provide Equipment, Education and Medical Care to Local Community

Contact: Brimstone Services, 615-941-8207, pr@brimstoneservices.com

NASHVILLE, Feb. 9, 2011 /Christian Newswire/ -- Cardiologist Dr. Mark W. Sheehan, author of the critically acclaimed book "Healing Prayer on Holy Ground," will lead a cardiac team to Cambodia later this month with Christian Medical Ministry to Cambodia/Jeremiah's Hope (www.cmmcjh.com) providing much needed medical tools and care to the Cambodian community.

Leaving at the beginning of February, Dr. Sheehan, co-founder and chairman of the board for Jeremiah's Hope, will head the first of two cardiac teams to visit Cambodian through late February. Dr. Daniel L. Smith (Cardiothoracic Surgery) will lead the second team. The group will bring with them many thousands of dollars of donated medical equipment, performing 90-120 cardiac consultations and 10 open heart operations for congenital and rheumatic heart disease.

Sheehan comments, "Mission Work is all about relationships. This WORK has to be done HIS way and according to HIS timing."

In addition to medical care, the team will continue to teach their Cambodian medical colleagues, working alongside Cambodian nurses and physicians who supervise the medical care of the Cambodian patients year-round. To donate to the current mission or future ones, visit: www.cmmcjh.com/html/donations.htm.

About Jeremiah's Hope
Christian Medical Ministry to Cambodia/Jeremiah's Hope is a nondenominational, international, Christian mission dedicated to providing excellent medical care to the poor and quality medical education to the healthcare community of Cambodia. For more information, visit: www.cmmcjh.com.

About Dr. Mark Sheehan
Mark W. Sheehan, M.D. is a board certified cardiologist and has been practicing cardiology since 1981. He is a member of South Denver Cardiology Associates and an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.

Most recently Dr. Sheehan penned "Healing Prayer on Holy Ground," recounting stories of hope and healing in the lives of his patients. The book was embraced by critics who called it "intriguing" (titletrakk.com) and "riveting" (Christian Courier). "Healing Prayer on Holy Ground" is currently available online at www.hpohg.com as well as via digital retail outlets including Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and christianbook.com. For additional information, visit www.hpohg.com.

Supreme Court Hears Case in Unionist Murder

Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer | Phnom Penh
Wednesday, 09 February 2011

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Photo: AP
Cambodian labor union workers carry flowers as they march to mark the 7th year anniversary of Chea Vichea's death, Cambodia's former free trade union president.

“Thach Saveth is a ‘plastic killer,’ like Born Samnang and Sok Samoeun.”

The Supreme Court on Wednesday heard the case of Thach Saveth, the suspect in a 2004 shooting of a labor activist who claims he was wrongfully charged.

Thach Saveth, 28, was arrested in July 2004 for the murder of Ros Sovannareth, a representative of the Free Trade Union of the Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, in May that year.

The murder of Ros Sovannareth followed the February killing of the union’s president, Chea Vichea, and the arrests of two men widely considered innocent of that crime.

Human rights groups have said Thach Saveth was likely not the killer and have demanded he be released and an investigation continued.

In court on Wednesday, Thach Saveth told judges he had not shot Ros Sovannareth. On that day, he was in the northern province of Oddar Meanchey visiting relatives, he said.

When he was arrested, police asked him about his involvement in drug use, but when he admitted to the use of methamphetamines he was arrested and charged with murder, he told the court.

Chea Mony, the current president of the Free Trade Union, said the court lacked the evidence to charge Thach Saveth and should release him.

He said the case was similar to the arrests that followed the murder of Chea Vichea, who was his brother.

The men arrested in that case, Born Samnang and Sok Samoeun were also widely considered innocent. They were freed by a Supreme Court decision in 2008 and are awaiting a retrial by the Appeals Court.

“Thach Saveth is a ‘plastic killer,’ like Born Samnang and Sok Samoeun,” Chea Mony said, using the Cambodian term for someone who has been framed.

Ros Sovannareth was the second Free Trade Union activist of three killed in 2004. Rights groups have decried the handling of all three cases, claiming the actual perpetrators remain at large.

The court will announce its decision next week.

Thailand, Cambodia Step Up Diplomatic Efforts

Ron Corben, VOA Bangkok, Thailand
Wednesday, 09 February 2011

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Photo: AP
A Cambodian soldier walks past armored vehicles during the National Assembly members' visit to troops in a military base near the Preah Vhear temple in Preah Vihear province, some 500 kilometers northwest of Phnom Penh, February 9, 2011.

"The cluster shells were discovered in the area shot by the Cambodian side."

Thailand and Cambodia are stepping up diplomatic efforts to prevent more fighting along their border. But the two countries accuse each other of using banned weapons in their battles in the past few days near a 900-year-old Hindu temple.

The two countries exchanged allegations Wednesday, over the use of internationally banned cluster bombs.

The internationally funded Cambodian Mine Action Center says it is investigating the reports of cluster bombs. Cambodia’s military says the artillery was from the Thai side of the border.

Hang Ratana, the CMAC secretary-general, says an investigation team has been sent to Sa'em commune, in Preah Vihear province. A team had been dispatched to brief civilians over the dangers of the bombs, which do not always explode on impact, and remain as land mines, posing a threat long after the conflict is over.

He says CMAC had found remnants of cluster bombs and saw that cluster munitions were spread in some areas. But the military situation has been tense and they will not be able investigate in many areas.



The Thai government denies using cluster bombs.

"The military confirmed to us that we don’t use this weapon. Number two they also discovered those weapons in the area and they concluded that the weapons and are from Cambodia. The cluster shells were discovered in the area shot by the Cambodian side," said Panitan Wattanayagorn, the government spokesman.

Cluster bombs and mines are particularly sensitive issues in Cambodia. Decades of war in the last century left parts of the country littered with such weapons and every year scores of people are injured by unexploded ordnance.

The latest fighting is the most severe since 2008, when tensions rose after the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple received World Heritage status under the United Nations Scientific and Educational Organization.

Fighting flared up last Friday, and has left at least 10 dead and scores wounded, including many civilians. Thousands of villagers on both sides of the border have fled their homes.

Cambodian and Thai troops remain on high alert, with villagers reporting a build up of security forces. But Wednesday there were no reports of new fighting.

The Preah Vihear temple remained close to the public Wednesday. Cambodian officials inspected the Hindu site, which appears to have sustained some damage during the fighting.

UNESCO officials have called for calm and say experts will be sent to assess damage to the temple. But Thailand opposes the UNESCO inspection.

The foreign ministers of both countries are due in New York next week to discuss the situation at the United Nations.

In 1962, the International Court of Justice ruled the Preah Vihear temple belonged to Cambodia, but a major access route lies in about five square kilometers of land that is in Thailand. In June the U.N. Heritage Committee is to meet to decide on a management plan for the temple.

The border dispute has been exacerbated by Thai politics. In late December, Cambodian officials arrested seven Thais, including members of Parliament, who were charged with illegally crossing the border in another disputed area. Two received lengthy prison sentences for spying, but five have been freed.

Thai nationalists demand that their government oust Cambodians from disputed lands and invalidate a memorandum of understanding the two countries signed on resolving border disputes. The government rejects the demands.

US Boots on the Ground Near Thai-Cambodian Border Fight

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Thursday, 10 February 2011
Column: Richard S. Ehrlich

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Thousands of U.S. troops are currently training Bangkok's poorly disciplined, coup-prone military to "defend Thailand" while a bloody artillery duel between Thailand and Cambodia has disrupted their border, and a decades-long southern Muslim insurgency smolders out of control.

America's 30th Cobra Gold, from February 7 to February 18, is one of the biggest multinational land-based military exercises on earth, involving 11,220 people, including 7,200 U.S. service members.

U.S. and other foreign forces are using Thailand's Vietnam war-era Utapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield in Chanthaburi province and other facilities, about 280 miles (450 kms) southwest of the fighting along the Thai-Cambodian border.

The U.S. Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, Third Marine Expeditionary Force, is deployed in Korat, about 180 miles (290 kms) west of the clashes.

U.S. boots are on the ground in this Buddhist, Southeast Asian, non-NATO ally, while a shooting feud between Thailand and Cambodia has killed at least eight people on both sides, since February 4, along their border.

Thailand and Cambodia attacked each other's jungle-based positions with artillery, mortars, rocket-fired grenades and other weapons, occasionally pausing for a "cease-fire" and then shooting again.

They fought for at least one hour on February 7 after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said, "We need the United Nations to send forces here and create a buffer zone to guarantee that there is no more fighting."

Elsewhere in Thailand, the U.S. military's Cobra Gold planned several live-fire demonstrations and other assaults.

Thailand's Lt. Gen. Surapun Wongthai serves as exercise commander, with U.S. Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth Glueck Jr. as deputy commander, the Stars and Stripes newspaper reported.

Among the U.S. Marine units participating in Thailand are: Okinawa's 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment acting as its ground combat element; Marine Wing Support Squadron 172; Marine Aircraft Group 36; and Combat Logistics Regiments 35 and Combat Logistics Regiment 3, it said.

The Sasebo, Japan-based USS Essex, USS Germantown and USS Denver are also involved.

Cobra Gold training exercises include service members from Japan, South Korea, Singapore and -- for the first time -- Malaysia.

An amphibious assault is scheduled for Thursday on Thailand's southern Hat Yao coast.

The Cobra Gold 2011 opening ceremony was held on February 7 in Thailand's second largest city, Chiang Mai, about 485 miles (780 kms) northwest of the Thai-Cambodia battle site.

"Cobra Gold 2011 is the 30th Thai-U.S. military exercise designed to ensure regional peace through a strategy of cooperative engagement, and strengthens the ability of the Royal Thai Armed Forces to defend Thailand," wrote Lance Cpl. Alejandro Pena of the Third Marine Expeditionary Force, on the official U.S. Marine Corps website.

The cross-border fighting by Thailand and Cambodia was not expected to spill into areas used by Cobra Gold.

Each side repeatedly said the other country's forces fired first after shells landed in Thailand and Cambodia, hitting nearby villages, setting homes and shops on fire, and forcing hundreds of people to flee.

Both Bangkok and Phnom Penh claim to own the thin slivers of disputed border land, and possession over the stone rubble of an 11th century Hindu temple, built by Cambodians when their Khmer kingdom stretched across much of present-day Thailand.

The cross-border fighting damaged the Preah Vihear temple, which was part of an ancient network of scattered Hindu shrines when Cambodia's nearby Angkor Wat complex acted as a center of political and spiritual power more than 900 years ago.

Preah Vihear also occupies a strategic military position because it is on a high cliff, overlooking northern Cambodia's flatlands 1,722 feet (525 meters) below, about 150 miles north of Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital.

If Thai forces can dominate Preah Vihear, or its surrounding territory on Thailand's eastern border, they would enjoy a high ground position against Cambodia, making both sides wary of each other's military forces close to the Dangrek Mountains' cliffside zone.

"Thailand is gravely concerned about the use the temple of Phra Viharn [Preah Vihear] by Cambodia for military purposes," Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva wrote to the UN Security Council on February 7.

The temple is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and lucrative tourist attraction.

Both countries want to profit from the growing number of travelers seeking to visit the ruins, and who use restaurants, shops, hotels and other facilities during their journey.

The temple was awarded to Cambodia in 1962 by the International Court of Justice, but a two-square-mile (4.6-sq-km) area on the surrounding cliff is disputed, while both countries point to different historical maps.

The office of UN Security Council Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York said on February 6: "The secretary-general appeals to both sides to put in place an effective arrangement for cessation of hostilities, and to exercise maximum restraint."

Bangkok's internal political problems are also a wild card in the volatile mix which could concern Cobra Gold.

During January, Army Chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha announced he "did not want to stage a coup," despite his role in a 2006 putsch.

Thailand's military has staged more than 18 coups and attempted coups since the 1930s, with the most recent in September 2006 which overthrew the popularly elected government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

In April and May, the army battled pro-democracy Red Shirt protesters who blockaded Bangkok's streets, resulting in 91 deaths -- mostly civilians -- amid protests against the coup and demands to restore Mr. Thaksin to power.

The Red Shirts did not oppose last year's Cobra Gold, but Sean Boonpracong, a Red Shirt spokesman at the time, warned "if the United States ignores us, we would put forth more opposition to the next Cobra Gold exercise" in 2011.

"We have tens of millions of followers," said Mr. Boonpracong, who later distanced himself from the Red Shirts after being briefly detained by the army last year.

Earlier, the poorly disciplined Thai army suffocated to death more than 78 minority Malay-Thai Muslim men in 2004, after tying them up and laying them flat on top of each other in army trucks.

Each year, London-based Amnesty International and other human rights groups report alleged extrajudicial killings and torture cases committed by the army in the south, along Thailand's border with Muslim-majority Malaysia, where an unstoppable insurgency has left more than 4,000 people dead on all sides since 2004.

 
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Richard S Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based journalist who has reported news from Asia since 1978. He is co-author of "Hello My Big Big Honey!", a non-fiction book of investigative journalism. His web page is http://www.asia-correspondent/