One Thai soldier was injured Thursday when he stepped on a landmine near a contested area of land on the border of Preah Vihear province, officials said.
The soldier, Chalong Mody, was injured near Veal Entry, or Eagle Field, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan told VOA Khmer. The field has been the site of several past skirmishes that led to the deaths of at least three Cambodian and one Thai soldier.
“After the Thai soldier stepped on the mine, another group of around 30 soldiers came to rescue him, firing into the air,” Phay Siphan said. “But the Cambodian side did not fire back.”
Cambodian and Thai soldiers are engaged in a protracted border dispute that began in July 2008, near Preah Vihear temple. Late last month, both sides had a tense stand-off, when the Thais reportedly entered Eagle Field and were then encircled by Cambodian soldiers.
Thailand has accused Cambodia of planting new mines along the border in the most recent dispute, but a top military official on Thursday denied this.
“I believe the mine was not newly planted,” Royal Cambodian Armed Forces commander Gen. Pol Saroeun told VOA Khmer by phone Thursday. “It’s just an old mine from the conflict between the Cambodian government and the Khmer Rouge.”
Var Kimhong, chairman of Cambodia’s joint border committee, chastised the Thai side for the incursion.
“The Thai side does not respect the law,” he told VOA Khmer. “We already have a memorandum of understanding, so why does the Thai side never respect Cambodian sovereignty? The Thai side should wait for us to install the border markers to show which is the Thai side and which is the Cambodian side.”
Thursday’s landmine incident comes after a new round of strained relations between the two neighbors.
Earlier this week, the Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong called on his Thai counterpart Kasit Piromya for allegedly calling Prime Minister Hun Sen a “playboy” in remarks to parliament last week.
On Thursday Kasit issued an apology for a “misunderstanding,” claiming that the Thai word “neak leng,” which in Khmer sounds like “playboy,” was in fact a Thai phrase for “lion-hearted,” or “magnanimous.”
Hun Sen wrote back, saying the Cambodians who had elected him prime minister would not feel “satisfied.”