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Tensions Reportedly Rise at Preah Vihear Border

Military sources said Thursday Thai troops have reinforced their positions along the contested border near Preah Vihear temple, adding tensions to a military standoff that has resulted in several skirmishes over the past year.

“A clash could have happened this afternoon, at 3 pm, but finally tensions were abated,” one officer stationed in Preah Vihear province said Thursday.

On Wednesday night, Thai soldiers arrived in five trucks at the entry of Preah Vihear temple, which is at the center of the disputes that were sparked when the temple was added to a Unesco World Heritage list in July last year.

Cambodian soldiers barred about 10 Thai soldiers from entering an encampment near Keo Sekha Kirisvarak pagoda, which has been occupied by Thai soldiers since July 15, 2008, the officer said, requesting anonymity.

“They came with their truck lights switched off,” he said.

Other military sources said Thai soldiers had reinforced positions near Ta Thao gate, at the entry of the 11th-Century temple, near two areas where fighting occurred in 2008, namely Sambok Khmom and Veal Intry, or Eagle Field.

Gen. Pol Saroun, commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, downplayed the rising tensions between the military.

Lt. Gen. Chhom Socheat, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Defense, said the situation on the border was “normal” on both sides.

In meetings between regional military commanders Wednesday, the Cambodian side urged the Thais to withdraw troops from nearby the pagoda, Sambok Khmom and other areas around the temple, Chhom Socheat said.

Thai commanders said they would take the request under consideration, he added.