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09BANGKOK867 2009-04-03 08:12:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Bangkok
Cable title:  

THAI ACCOUNT OF APRIL 3 THAI-CAMBODIA BORDER

Tags:   PREL PGOV TH 
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1. (C) Summary: Thai military and civilian sources claim the
early morning exchange of gunfire between Thai and Cambodian
forces April 3 in a disputed area near the Preah Vihear
temple grew out of an April 2 incident in which a Thai
soldier lost a leg to a newly laid landmine on a path
normally patrolled by Thai soldiers. Thai officials claim
their forces secured the site overnight prior to the brief
five minute gunfire exchange at 0710 local time. They
acknowledge that the skirmish took place in an area which
both sides had agreed not to carry arms. Thai and Cambodian
officials subsequently talked locally and between capitals,
pledging to defuse the situation, but a second round of
exchanges occurred from 1315-1400, this time involving
mortars and RPGs, according to LTG Nipat Thonglek, Director
of the Department of Border Affairs, Royal Thai Armed Forces
(RTARF) HQ. We counseled Nipat to reinitiate talks with
Cambodian counterparts to prevent further such skirmishes.
End Summary

Another newly planted mine?


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2. (C) LTG Nipat told us that the latest Thai-Cambodia
dispute started April 2 at 0830, when a Thai ranger (a
paramilitary soldier commanded by a line army officer)
stepped on a newly laid landmine on a path which the Thai
routinely patrol. Nipat noted this was a repeat of a
scenario which played out in the same area in October 2008,
when two Thai rangers lost legs to what the Thai claimed were
newly laid landmines. The disputed area to the west of the
Prear Vihear temple is called Phu Makua (Eggplant Hill) by
the Thai, Field of Eagles by the Cambodians. LTG Nipat said
that Thai local commanders sent in additional troops to
secure the location, look for evidence/additional mines, and
stayed overnight.

Early morning words, and fire


--------------------------





3. (C) LTC Pattanapong Seenphuwa of the Internal Security
Operations Command (ISOC) Second Region, told us that a group
of Cambodian soldiers had approached the Thai on site early
April 3 around 0700, requesting to discuss the previous day's
incident. LTC Pattanapong stated that the Cambodian
commander asked the Thai not to patrol in that area; the Thai
commander replied that he was under orders to do so. The
conversation concluded after five minutes; LTC Pattanapong
said the gunfire exchange started at 0710, lasting three
minutes. Pattanapong said he heard approximately 50 rounds of
gunfire, plus two louder explosions which he thought might
have been RPGs. The Thai suffered no casualties, he said.



4. (C) Both LTG Nipat and MFA Cambodia desk officer Mongkol
claimed that the Cambodians had initiated the gun fire
exchange, with the Thai subsequently firing back in
self-defense. Mongkol said that the Thai MFA was preparing a
note of protest and would call the Cambodia Ambassador in to
receive it.

Talking afterwards, locally and between capitals


--------------------------

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5. (C) Seri Jitrakasem, Governor of Sisaket Province, located
on the Thai side of Prear Vihear, told us that Phu Makua is
located in the overlapping/disputed area in which there are
supposed to be no armed troops patrolling, and no landmines
either. Seri said that after the brief gunfire exchange, the
local Thai and Cambodian commanders at the Captain level, who
know each other well, shook hands and pledged to avoid
further skirmishing. LTG Nipat told us that Thai Minister of
Defense Prawit had called an aide to Cambodian PM Hun Sen
seeking to calm matters. Nipat said he had phoned Cambodian
Chief of Defense Force GEN Pol Sarin, and they both agreed to
tell their "boys in the field" to stand down. A meeting

BANGKOK 00000867 002.2 OF 002


between Thai and Cambodian regional army commanders, with LTG
Tawatchai, Second Army Area deputy commander representing
Thailand, was scheduled for mid-afternoon.

A Second round of gunfire early afternoon


--------------------------





6. (C) LTG Nipat subsequently called back to report that
Cambodian forces had re-initiated firing at 1315 local time,
using mortars and RPGs over a wider area, for 45 minutes,
ending around 1400 local time. Nipat surmised the Cambodians
were seeking retribution for injuries in the morning
skirmish; Thai intelligence had reported 4 Cambodian soldiers
injured in the morning exchange. Nipat did not yet have
reports of casualties from the afternoon exchange.
JOHN