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Cambodia Seeks UN Intervention After Border Clashes

A Thai man walks though a bomb crater near Sisaket, Thailand, near the border with Cambodia, Monday, Feb. 7, 2011. Troops of Cambodia and Thailand continue to clash near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple.

Cambodia on Monday stepped up its diplomatic efforts to put an end to four days of clashes along the border near Preah Vihear temple, while military commanders on the border reported the situation had calmed after more fighting Monday morning.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a speech Monday he had requested intervention from the UN Security Council, as the foreign minister prepared for a trip to UN headquarters in New York.

His request came in response to three days of violent clashes on the border that included heavy exchanged of artillery and heavy weapons, partially destroyed a Cambodian-built pagoda in disputed territory, and damaged Preah Vihear temple, a Unesco World Heritage site.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters Wednesday he had met with diplomats from all seven permanent members of the Security Council, as well as representatives of 14 other countries.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen said Thailand had shown a “clear intention to fight and capture 4.6 kilometers of disputed area.”

He called the fighting at least four different sites along the border “a major clash or a small war along the Cambodian and Thai border” and warned Thailand not to fly aircraft over the border, which he said Cambodia would consider a full invasion.

Cambodia has requested the UN send its forces into a “buffer zone” in the disputed area, he said.

Hor Namhong said Monday he had briefed diplomats on the request and would travel to New York to report to the Security Council.

In a letter to Unesco, Council Minister Sok An requested the immediate dispatch of a monitoring team to Preah Vihear temple.

Panitan Watanayagorn, a spokesman for Thai government told VOA that Thailand would issue its own report to the Security Council.

The situation on the border had returned to normal Monday night, after a brief exchange of gunfire around 4 am Monday morning, Pol Saroeun, commander in chief of the armed forces, told VOA Khmer.

However, he said, Cambodian troops remained on alert in case of more fighting.

A portion of Preah Vihear temple was damaged by artillery fire from the Thai side on Friday, military officials said. Fighting continued at multiple sites on Saturday and Sunday.

Cambodian officials have reported at least five Cambodians dead and 45 injured. The Bangkok Post reported Monday one Thai soldier and one Thai civilian killed during the fighting.

Cambodian troops also captured one Thai soldier, who remains in the custody of military police in Phnom Penh, officials said over the weekend.

Meanwhile, villagers continued to flee the border areas, fearing more violence would come.

“Right now, I’m fearful because the fighting that happened last night was more intense than before,” said Leap Ngor, a 55-year-old villager who was recently resettled 20 kilometers away from Preah Vihear temple after clashes last year.