Sunday, 5 October 2008

Mendel takes gear to Cambodia

Former Summit County resident Doug Mendel poses with the eight firefighters at the Ban Lung Fire Station in rural Cambodia on a 2007 trip. Mendel is delivering more firefighting gear this week.
Summit Daily file photo

Philanthropist to deliver 14 boxes of firefighting equipment

Summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado

Former Summit County resident Doug Mendel is making his 12th philanthropic trip to Cambodia this week, where he will be for the next three and a half weeks distributing firefighting equipment.

He will be taking 850 pounds in 14 boxes of firefighting bunker gear to deliver to the Phnom Penh fire department and checking up on five other stations he has supported in Sihanoukville, Kampot, Battambang, Siemreap and Banung.

Mendel started the relief fund 5-1/2 years ago to help support fire stations and children in Cambodia.

In that time he has managed to have two fire trucks put into use, including one donated by Breckenridge’s Red, White and Blue Fire Protection District, and raised $63,000 through the sale of crafts, donations and fundraisers.

On this trip, he will check the status of everything he has already donated and get ideas for what is needed in the future.

“I’m going to let them know I’m not going to be coming next year because I need a break to concentrate on fundraising,” Mendel said. “(I’m) going to touch base with them and see how they are doing and see what their wish list would be for when I do come back in 2010.”

Mendel now resides and runs his fund out of Montrose after living for a short time in Moab, Utah, and his project is gaining more support in that area.

“It’s definitely picking up,” he said. “With the schools, I was able to sell in May when I first moved there ... and I’ve had a lot of media exposure there.”

Although Mendel no longer resides in Summit County, he still visits often and plans to continue to sell crafts in the area.

He is planning on being back in the county in November to sell at local schools and then in December for the Christmas bazaar in Silverthorne.

“I still have wonderful support here, so I do my best to come here, ...” Mendel said. “I feel fortunate that, even though I moved away two years ago, I’m still able to come here seven times a year ... because I know Summit County enjoys helping out with my endeavors helping the Cambodian people.”

Beyond contributing by selling crafts, Mendel is hoping that his extra time in the United States will help garner more attention and financial support.

“I’m looking for donations to kind of ramp up my efforts to have fire trucks and fire stations in Cambodia,” he said.

How to Contribute
Donations can be made on Mendel’s website,, through pay-pal, or contact Mendel at on other ways to contribute.
Jonathan Batuello can be reached at (970) 668-4653 or

The new war against TB

The emergence of a devastating drug-resistant strain means that tuberculosis now kills more of us than malaria. Award-winning photographer James Nachtwey travelled from Siberian prisons to Cambodian clinics to document the battle against this 'virtually untreatable' and deadliest of diseases

The Guardian News

Mark Honigsbaum
The Observer,
Sunday October 5 2008
Article history

In one photograph a young boy, his arms spread as if in supplication, gazes listlessly at the ceiling as a woman - his mother, we presume - cradles him tenderly in her arms. In another, a grey-haired man attached to an oxygen cylinder sits cross-legged on a hospital bed staring vacantly into the middle distance. In two further pictures we encounter similar expressions, this time in the eyes of a man bundled up in bed taking his meds and a baby framed against the film of a chest X-ray occluded by ghostly white shadows.

The child in the first picture is Chan Thai, a 12-year-old from Svay Reing in Cambodia. He is pictured in the throes of tuberculosis meningitis, a disease that should no longer afflict children in this century. The names of the others have not been recorded, but whether from India or Lesotho, Swaziland or Siberia, they too are victims of TB, a disease now re-emerging in a deadly new form with devastating consequences in villages, shanty towns and cities across the globe.

'Tuberculosis is a shocking disease,' explains James Nachtwey, the American war photographer behind these extraordinary images. 'I'm a very experienced journalist. I've seen a lot of terrible things in this world, but witnessing TB is something that affected me as profoundly as anything I saw in Iraq or Afghanistan. My heart went out to the victims and when people see these photographs I hope their hearts will go out to them, too.'

Starting this weekend, Nachtwey will get his wish when TED, a New York-based organisation that brings together leading scientists, thinkers and designers committed to social change, begins exhibiting his photographs in galleries around the world. The brainchild of Chris Anderson, a former magazine entrepreneur, TED grants $100,000 to three outstanding people each year and gives them 'one wish to change the world'. Nachtwey's was to use his skills as a photojournalist to raise global awareness of 'extensively drug resistant tuberculosis' (XDR-TB for short) and in the process demonstrate the power of news photography in the digital age.

With TED's funding, Nachtwey travelled to countries as diverse as Cambodia, Siberia, Rwanda and India, documenting the depredations of XDR-TB and the efforts of governments and NGOs to pioneer new treatment programmes that may arrest the disease's progression. On Friday, TED unveiled a slide show of more than 50 of Nachtwey's images at the Lincoln Center in New York and the National Theatre in London. Over the next few weeks the same photographs will be shown on outdoor screens in 50 cities worldwide and on the internet as part of a multimedia campaign that aims to harness the power of the web and 'viral marketing' techniques. At the same time the UK think-tank Demos will exhibit Nachtwey's photographs in a gallery in Brick Lane, east London, renamed the Emergency Room.

Nachtwey's aim is to bring TB more into the 'mass consciousness,' in the hope of kick-starting an action campaign that can leverage more funds for aid. 'The problem at the moment is that very few people in the West are even conscious of TB,' he says. 'The more people are aware of it, the easier it is to raise funds and get sponsorship for research.'

Tuberculosis is one of the oldest diseases known to man and certainly one of the deadliest. Evidence of tuberculosis has been found in the skeletons of Egyptian mummies and in an Iron Age settlement in Dorset. Scientists estimate that in the past 400 years TB has killed some 2bn people worldwide, and disfigured, crippled and blinded countless more. It is not for nothing that the 17th-century English writer and preacher John Bunyan called TB 'the captain of all these men of death'.

Spread like the common cold or flu by coughing and sneezing, the tubercle bacillus most commonly infects the lungs, slowly eating away at the spongy tissue essential for respiration and forming abscesses that discharge foul-smelling pus. However, the microbe spares no part of the human body and can also spill into the digestive tract, causing ulcerations of the throat and bloody diarrhoea, or into the bloodstream where it causes a condition known as milliary tuberculosis that can prove fatal to the kidneys, heart and other organs. If it crosses the blood-brain barrier, TB can also cause meningitis, coma and death.

More usually, however, Mycobacterium tuberculosis is a seductively slow assassin. Hippocrates labelled the disease phthisis - from the Greek term for 'wasting' - because of the way that patients under its influence seemed to gradually wither away, and even after Robert Koch's groundbreaking isolation of the bacillus in 1882 doctors continued to refer to TB as 'consumption' well into the Twenties. At the height of the disease's prevalence in the 18th and 19th centuries it claimed the lives of as many as 100,000 Britons every year. Prominent victims included John Keats, Emily Brontë and Robert Louis Stevenson - associations that gave it an aura of romance and poetry. However, for anyone who has witnessed the disease at close hand, there is nothing romantic about TB, and today it is back with a vengeance.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that every year TB kills 1.6m people - or one person every 18 seconds (by contrast, malaria is responsible for some 1m deaths worldwide, or roughly one person every 30 seconds). Although that is still short of the annual death toll from HIV/Aids (between 1.8m and 2.3m), separating the two diseases increasingly makes little sense. 'If there's a high population with HIV, then people are much more susceptible to the disease,' explains Nachtwey.

Born in Syracuse, New York, Nachtwey made his name as a witness to some of the world's bloodiest and most intractable conflicts. A five- times winner of the Robert Capa Gold Medal, he covered the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the early Eighties, the Serb invasion of Kosovo in 1999 and countless other war and famine zones from Bosnia to the Sudan. In 2003 Nachtwey was on assignment with a US Army platoon in Iraq when an insurgent tossed a grenade into his Humvee. The grenade severed the hand of one of his journalistic colleagues, but Nachtwey still had the wherewithal to photograph the medics who came to their rescue before he passed out.

He first became interested in TB in 2000 when Time magazine sent him to South Africa to cover Aids. The government was still in denial over the scale of the epidemic, but visiting villages and wards where people with HIV were sent for 'treatment for TB', it soon became obvious that the two diseases were linked and the problem was growing.

Then, in 2003, the Cambodian Health Committee (CHC), an independent NGO that is the brainchild of Harvard infectious disease expert Dr Anne Goldfeld and a former Cambodian refugee worker Dr Sok Thim, invited Nachtwey to document their in-country treatment programme. Nachtwey travelled with Thim to Svay Reing, delivering drugs to remote rural areas and going on house visits. It was during one of these visits that he photographed a 12-year-old peasant boy who had just lost his mother to TB. Nachtwey arrived just as the boy, dressed in Buddhist robes, was preparing to lead the funeral procession through the paddy fields to the funeral pyre. His photograph of Va Ling, clutching a framed picture of his mother to his chest, is both moving and timeless. Exhibited in 2007 at the United Nations in New York on the occasion of World TB Day, it was this photograph - and the reaction to it - that convinced Nachtwey that a slide show of similarly arresting images could be a means of raising consciousness of TB worldwide.'There are lots of very impressive statistics about TB, but I wanted to put a human face on it.'

With TED's help, Nachtwey visited seven countries blighted by XDR-TB, returning to Cambodia and South Africa but also documenting new TB hotspots such as Rwanda, Lesotho, Swaziland and Siberia.

An airborne rod-like microbe, Mycobacterium tuberculosis is most commonly transmitted in air droplets when someone coughs or sneezes. The good news is that unlike a cold or flu, TB is not highly contagious - it usually takes several hours of continuous exposure for a sick person to transmit the disease to someone who is healthy. The bad news, however, is that the bacillus can hang around in the atmosphere for weeks or months - much longer than other bacteria - and although 60 per cent of those infected will successfully fight off and destroy an infection, one in three people continues to carry the bacillus in dormant form. The danger is that if their immune system is suddenly compromised or they are infected with HIV, these latent infections may revive.

Even so, if TB is diagnosed early, it is eminently treatable, usually with a six- to eight-month course of oral antibiotics. However, if patients fail to complete the prescribed course of treatment, the bacteria may become resistant, meaning doctors have to prescribe other harder-to-tolerate second-line medications, for periods of between one and two years. This in turn makes compliance even harder, resulting in a vicious cycle of rising rates of multi-drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) and new infections.

Resistance to streptomycin, the original TB drug, was first reported in 1948. Since then the bacillus has also bred resistance to rifampicin and isoniazid - the front-line combination therapies recommended by the WHO - as well as to many second-line oral antibiotics and third-line injectable drugs.

The result is that last year there were 500,000 new cases of MDR-TB, of which 2 per cent were deemed by the WHO to be XDR-TB and 'virtually untreatable'. Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, and Tomsk Oblast in Siberia, which houses a 7,000-strong prison population, were particularly hard hit with some of the highest rates of MDR-TB ever recorded.

In South Africa TB is closely linked to rising rates of HIV, whereas in Russia the resurgence of the disease can be traced to the economic dislocation that followed the demise of the Soviet Union. As health and social services collapsed and alcoholism skyrocketed, many people developed TB because their immune systems, weakened by drugs, alcohol and poor nutrition, could no longer keep latent TB in check. During the long, cold Siberian winters, the hallways and unventilated cells of the Tomsk jails also provided ideal conditions for the transmission of the virus, resulting in the prisons becoming an 'epidemiological pump' spreading the disease throughout the general population.

As part of his journey Nachtwey visited one of the Tomsk prison colonies. His guide was Partners-in-Health (PIH), a Boston-based NGO founded by Dr Paul Farmer that helps manage treatment programmes inside Siberian prisons, as well as in community settings.
When PIH first arrived in the region, the WHO had effectively written off MDR-TB as untreatable. Instead, it was insisting that Russia adopt its directly observed therapy short course (DOTS) treatment programme, despite the fact that in many parts of the country chemists had run out of the oral antibiotics.

Armed with a $10m grant from the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria, PIH adopted a different strategy. Beginning in 2000 it encouraged local doctors, first in the prison system and then throughout the region, to treat all cases of MDR-TB aggressively. At around the same time, the WHO agreed to green-light the supply of second-line drugs at sharply reduced prices. The result was that the cost of treating a patient was halved, from around £6,000 to £3,000, and compliance rates shot up. Today, PIH claims its 'DOTS-plus' programme in Siberia is achieving a near 80 per cent cure rate. However, while the deaths from TB are down, drug resistance is still rising - about 15 per cent of new cases according to the latest figures.

Despite this setback, Nachtwey insists PIH's programme is a rare success story. 'They've shown that in most cases TB can be cured - you can actually be healed.'

Nachtwey was similarly impressed by PIH's facility at a hospital in Maseru, Lesotho, which it runs in partnership with the government and which boasts similar cure rates. And in India, which has the highest number of TB cases of any country in the world, he spent 10 days visiting hospitals and clinics in Mumbai and Chennai, where he found government programmes are also well organised.

However, the country he knows best and where he has seen the most marked progress is Cambodia. When Sok Thim and Anne Goldfeld founded the CHC in 1994 the country had some of the highest TB rates in the world. As in Russia, the MDR-TB cases were considered untreatable. Goldfeld and Thim changed all that by offering patients free medication if they signed a contract pledging they would finish their treatment and by getting friends and family to serve as co-guarantors. At the same time CHC negotiated nutritional supplements from the World Food Program, thus reducing the likelihood that patients and their families would go hungry - a key factor in speeding recovery.

The result is that CHC has treated 13,000 Cambodians for TB and boasts cure rates as high as 95 per cent. At the same time, Goldfeld, who also runs a biomedical research lab at Harvard, has been able to identify a key susceptibility gene for TB and a unique immune reaction that helps the microbe evade human immune defences - research that may eventually lead to new treatments and vaccines.

Now, with the help of the WHO, Goldfeld is negotiating wider access to subsidised drugs and running a trial looking at the best timing for medications for patients with dual TB/HIV infections.

'Our programmes show that everyone can be well if you give them the right education and support,' says Goldfeld. 'It doesn't matter if you live in the city or the poorest part of Cambodia. If you get the drugs to people and provide communities with food and other forms of support, TB can be beaten.'

However, for all the progress that has been made in Svay Reing, CHC operates on a shoestring and can't be there to treat every patient or prevent every new infection. This is the true tragedy of TB. Sometime between the Twenties (when French researchers first developed the BCG vaccine) and the Fifties (when the vaccine was first given to schoolchildren in Britain and other European countries), the West took its eye off the ball. Thinking that TB had been consigned to the dustbin of medical history, we failed to invest in new drugs or better vaccines that would extend the protection conferred by the BCG to adults in later life. As Paul Farmer, the founder of PIH and a medical anthropologist with years of experience treating TB and other infectious diseases puts it: 'In failing to curb tuberculosis a window of opportunity has been slammed shut. We must acknowledge that our guilt surpasses that of earlier generations who lacked our resources.'

Chan Thai is a case in point. Tuberculosis meningitis is extremely rare in the UK thanks to immunisation with the BCG and good child healthcare services. Not so in Cambodia. Nachtwey and Goldfeld first encountered Chan Thai at the local hospital in Svay Reing where his mother had brought him for emergency treatment. One of four children from a farming family, Chan Thai had collapsed suddenly at home with a fever and convulsions. At hospital he was given a spinal tap and a cocktail of antibiotics. Even so, doctors couldn't prevent him suffering further seizures and slipping into a coma. Fortunately, he recovered and was eventually able to return home.

Nevertheless, when Nachtwey took his photograph, says Goldfeld, Chan Thai was still clearly mentally discombobulated - hence the vacant, far-away look in his eyes. 'This is not MDR-TB, this is what even normal TB can do,' says Goldfeld. 'Although the picture was taken in Cambodia, it could have been taken in Kosovo or Cuzco - anywhere that TB is rampant.'

Border shootout prompts protest to Cambodia govt

The Bangkok Post
Sunday October 05, 2008



The Foreign Ministry yesterday protested to the Cambodian government for what it sees as aggression and a violation of Thailand's sovereignty and territorial integrity committed by Cambodian soldiers. On Friday, Thai and Cambodian soldiers in the border area of Si Sa Ket province clashed.

Two Thai and three Cambodian soldiers were wounded.

Cambodian charge d'affaires to Bangkok Ouk Sophoin was summoned last night to meet permanent secretary Virasakdi Futrakul at the ministry and was given an aide-memoire.

Speaking after the one-hour meeting, Mr Virasakdi said Thailand had protested to Cambodia after its troops opened fire on the Thai troops.

''The Thai government demands the Cambodian government ensure that a similar incident does not recur because this incident might affect attempts by both countries to seek a peaceful solution to the Thai-Cambodian border dispute,'' said Mr Virasakdi.

The Thai para-military rangers from Suranaree Task Force were patrolling along the Thai-Cambodian border inside Thai territory near Phu Ma Khua last Friday.

When they arrived in an area about one kilometre to the west of Preah Vihear temple, they discovered an intrusion into Thai territory by a group of Cambodian soldiers who were digging trenches in the area around Preah Vihear temple.

Four unarmed Thai para-military rangers were told to notify the Cambodian soldiers that they had intruded into Thai territory and asked them to leave.

But the Cambodian soldiers consulted their superiors by radio and were heard to receive instructions to fire at the Thai soldiers.

The Cambodian troops started firing their guns into the air. The Thai para-military rangers decided to leave the scene when the Cambodian soldiers opened fire at them, prompting the Thai unit stationed nearby to return fire to protect the Thai troops.

''The Thai government considers the intrusion of the Cambodian soldiers into Thailand's territory a serious violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

''Firing on unarmed Thai para-military rangers is a brutal and aggressive act and is contrary to the spirit of friendly relations between the two countries,'' said the aide-memoire.

Mr Virasakdi said digging trenches violated the agreement between the two armed forces made during the Special Meeting of the Thailand-Cambodia Regional Committee in Surin province on Aug 13, that both sides must refrain from digging trenches close to the Preah Vihear.

The Cambodians' action also violated the agreement between the two foreign ministers for soldiers from the two sides to exercise restraint, he said.

''Mr Ouk Sophoin was still adamant that the incident occurred inside Cambodian territory, according to their report,'' he said.

The Thai ambassador to Phnom Penh was summoned to a protest by the Cambodian government.

Former deputy army chief Vichit Yathip, who has a close relationship with Cambodian military leaders, said he had spoken to Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh about the clash.

Gen Vichit said a soldier cracked under the strain and fired shots into the air, prompting the exchange of gunfire.

Cambodia - News : shooting at Preah Vihear - 04.10.2008

Teck Mieng, a Cambodian soldier injured during a clash with Siam, is seen at Phnom Trop mountain near the Thai border in Preah Vihear province

Cambodia soldiers sit on Phnom Trop mountain near the Thai border in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh, near the disputed 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple, October 4, 2008. Cambodia protested to Thailand on Saturday about a border shooting incident in which three solders were wounded and said in a letter to the Thai ambassador that such "intentional armed provocation" could lead to conflict. Two Thai soldiers and one Cambodian soldier were injured in what was the first clash in the disputed territory near the Preah Vihear temple since the two countries agreed to pull back in August after a serious confrontation.REUTERS/Stringer (CAMBODIA)

Teck Mieng (C), a Cambodian soldier injured during a clash with Thai soldiers, is seen at Phnom Trop mountain near the Thai border in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh, near the disputed 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple, October 4, 2008. Cambodia protested to Thailand on Saturday about a border shooting incident in which three solders were wounded and said in a letter to the Thai ambassador that such "intentional armed provocation" could lead to conflict. Two Thai soldiers and one Cambodian soldier were injured in what was the first clash in the disputed territory near the Preah Vihear temple since the two countries agreed to pull back in August after a serious confrontation.REUTERS/Stringer (CAMBODIA)

Thai military chief confident Thai-Cambodian border dispute can be resolved

Posted: 2008/10/04
From: MNN

Thailand`s newly-appointed military commander Gen. Songkitti Jaggabatara said Friday he is confident that the ongoing Thailand-border dispute could be resolved amicably.

Gen. Songkitti, who has assumed his new post as supreme commander on Wednesday, said ther dispute between the two neighbours is being solved at the bilateral committee level and there should not be any problem if all perform their defined duties.

To date there has been no violence along the border, he said.

The two countries, both members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), remain engaged in a dispute over at least three ancient temples. The disputes stem from poor demarcation as Cambodia uses a colonial-era French map to demarcate the border, which Thailand says favours Cambodia. Thailand relies on a map drawn up later with American technical assistance.

Meanwhile, Lt-Gen. Kanit Sapitak, Thai First Army Region commander responsible for security affairs in the country's central region, told journalists that the differences between the two countries does not pose any problem between the militaryt, civil servants and residents living near the border.

Currently, Cambodian nationals still cross into Thailand illegally to seek jobs, according to Gen. Kanit, adding that a new economic zone has been set up inside Cambodia aimed at encouraging Thai and and other foreign investors to invest in that country which could improve employment there.

Gen. Kanit will soon visit the Cambodian border at Aranyaprathet district to follow-up 4th Thai-Khmer general border committee meeting which ended recently with the parties agreeing to beautify scenery and improve the environment at the border. (TNA)

Man convicted of murdering immigrant for money

International Herald Tribune
The Associated Press
Published: October 4, 2008

FREEHOLD, New Jersey: Phonarith Chhieng escaped famine, war and communism in Cambodia — only to be beaten and strangled to death in an Asbury Park alley for $40.

On Friday, a state Superior Court jury in Freehold found Alan Frost guilty of murdering the 42-year-old Verizon salesman in 2005, according to the Asbury Park Press newspaper.

Frost, a 46-year-old from Asbury Park, didn't show emotion as the verdict was read, even as tears filled the eyes of Chhieng's relatives.

Authorities say he was a victim of a plot by Frost and others to rob someone to get money to pay drug suppliers.

Benny Matthews has pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter and other charges related to the killing. Another suspect, Sharif Bass, is still awaiting trial.

Cambodian prince steps down as party leader

International Herald Tribune
The Associated Press
Published: October 4, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Prince Norodom Ranariddh, a key leader in post-civil war Cambodia, has resigned as his party's chief and also quit politics just days after returning home from 18 months in exile, his party said Saturday.

The prince handed in his resignation on Friday evening, a party statement said, without giving a reason.

Suth Dina, the party spokesman, said the prince told supporters he had spent enough time pursuing a political career and it was time to retire. He said Ranariddh had informed King Norodom Sihamoni, his half brother, about his decision.

Last week, Ranariddh returned from 18 months in exile in Malaysia after the king pardoned him for an embezzlement conviction.

Ranariddh is a son of retired King Norodom Sihanouk, from whom he inherited Funcinpec, a former armed Cambodian resistance movement.

Ranariddh converted Funcinpec into a royalist party that won United Nations-sponsored elections in 1993. The elections were part of a peace process aimed at ending civil war in Cambodia.

But since then his political popularity has nose-dived and he was sacked as president of Funcinpec in 2006 for alleged incompetence.

The prince formed a new party — the Norodom Ranariddh Party — which won only two of 123 seats in the National Assembly in July elections.

The party has chosen Chhim Siek Leng, the vice president, to replace him.

Cambodian and Thai commanders meet at site of border skirmish

A Cambodian soldier

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (AFP) — Cambodian and Thai commanders met at their tense disputed border area Saturday amid accusations that each side had caused a border skirmish that left three soldiers injured.

One Cambodian soldier and two Thai troops were wounded when units exchanged gun and rocket fire during a brief clash Friday near an ancient temple in the area.

In an attempt to cool tensions Srey Dek, commander of Cambodian forces in the area, met with his Thai counterpart, Colonel Chayan Huaysoongnern, on Saturday afternoon at a Buddhist pagoda in the disputed territory, said the Cambodian cabinet spokesman.

"The two sides called for the situation to return to normalcy," Cambodian cabinet spokesman Phay Siphan told AFP.

The foreign ministries of both countries issued formal letters on Saturday accusing the other's troops of trespassing and firing first in Friday's skirmish.

Cambodia's letter to the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh warned that "armed provocation by Thai soldiers could lead to very grave consequences, including full-scale armed hostility".

Later Saturday the Thai foreign ministry responded with its own letter, given to a Cambodian diplomat.

"Thailand protested on two points -- that Cambodian soldiers trespassed into Thai territory and that Cambodian soldiers opened fire first," a foreign ministry official said.

The clash came amid attempts to make progress in talks to resolve the decades-long border dispute.

The dispute flared in July after the Khmer temple of Preah Vihear was awarded world heritage status by the UN cultural body UNESCO, angering nationalists in Thailand who still claim ownership of the site.

That spilled into a military standoff, in which up to 1,000 Cambodian and Thai troops faced off for six weeks.

Both sides agreed to pull back in mid-August, leaving just a few dozen soldiers stationed near the temple, but the neighbours have continued to trade accusations of violating each other's sovereignty.

Phay Siphan said Thai prime minister Somchai Wongsawat was still expected to visit the Cambodian capital later this month to speak with Cambodian premier Hun Sen about the simmering border dispute.

"The talks between the Cambodian and Thai prime ministers on October 13 in Phnom Penh will take place as planned," he said.

During an inspection of the skirmish site Saturday, Cambodian deputy commander General Chea Dara said Thai troops had intruded more than a kilometre (0.6 miles) into Cambodia.

"Our troops are patient but they must protect themselves too," Dara told reporters.

Thai troops appeared to be keeping their distance from their Cambodian counterparts on Saturday but a Cambodian officer said the Thais had dug a fresh trench on disputed land.

"Digging a trench breaches an earlier agreement between Cambodia and Thailand," said Major Meas Yoeurn.

Cambodia warns Thailand over 'hostilities'

A Cambodian soldier is shown at the Preah Vihear temple in late July.
Sat October 4, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) -- The Cambodian government accused Thailand on Saturday of trying to provoke "full-scale armed hostilities" between the two neighbors after a cross-border gunfight.

Thai soldiers stationed in a disputed border area were engaged in a brief clash that wounded one Cambodian and two Thai troops on Friday several miles (kilometers) west of Cambodia's ancient Preah Vihear temple.

Thai forces entered Cambodian territory and were the first to open fire, the Cambodian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "Cambodia strongly protests against this deplorable and intentional armed provocation by Thai soldiers," it said.

It warned that such a provocation "could lead to very grave consequences, including full-scale armed hostilities."

Tharit Charungvat, Thailand's Foreign Ministry spokesman, said a protest note would be delivered Saturday to the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok over the incident.

Tharit said Friday evening that Thai troops had been patrolling in their own territory when they encountered the Cambodian soldiers.

"The Cambodian troops shot at the Thai troops first, wounding two soldiers. One Cambodian soldier was also wounded after the Thais responded," he said.

Lt. Gen. Wiboonsak Ngeepan, the regional army commander for northeastern Thailand, said it was unclear if the Cambodians intruded intentionally or had strayed into Thailand because "the area is dense forest."

The Cambodian Foreign Ministry said its troops returned fire in self defense after they were attacked by Thai soldiers. The attack was just over one mile (about two kilometers) west of the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda near the Preah Vihear temple, it said.

The pagoda is where border tensions between the two neighbors erupted on July 15 after UNESCO, the U.N. cultural agency, approved Cambodia's application to have the 11th century temple named a World Heritage Site.

Thailand sent troops to occupy the pagoda, also claimed by Cambodia.

Cambodia responded with its own troop deployment. The two sides came close to a shootout on July 17 when Cambodian monks sought to celebrate Buddhist lent in the pagoda.

Troops on both sides raised their weapons, but no shots were fired, and the Cambodians eventually backed down.

Since then there has been a limited troop withdrawal from the area, and talks have been held several times to resolve the conflicting claims, but without much progress.

Friday's clash was the most serious incident yet, and occurred despite repeated statements by both governments that they are committed to preventing violence.

Diplomatic letters fly; Thai, Cambodian soldiers confer next week after border clash

news balita-dot-ph
October 5, 2008

UBON RATCHATHANI, Oct. 4 — Thai soldiers guarding disputed border areas along the Thai-Cambodian border have been ordered to be "extra cautious in performing their duty" following Friday's clash which left two Thai and one Cambodian soldiers wounded as senior officers of both armies are expected to meet next week to create better understanding, Lt-Gen. Wiboonsak Neeparn, Thailand's Second Army Region commander said on Saturday.

Foreign Ministry Permanent secretary Virasakdi Futrakul invited Cambodia's charge d'affairs in Bangkok to lodge a protest letter, following Cambodia's presentation of a letter of protest in Phnom Penh earlier Saturday. The Cambodian foreign ministry letter to the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh protested the Thai action in the border clash.

According to media reports from the Khmer capital, Phnom Penh said that Cambodian troops had only returned fire in self defence and went on to warn that "armed provocation by Thai soldiers could lead to very grave consequences, including full scale armed hostility".

Gen. Wiboonsak, who oversees security affairs in northeastern Thailand, told journalists after visiting the two wounded soldiers at an army hospital in Ubon Ratchathani that the shooting took place in a disputed area of Kantharalak district bordering Cambodia, and gave assurances that military officers on both sides would deal responsibly with the situation.

The Thai Foreign Ministry said in a statement, issued Friday night, quoting Thai military sources as saying that the exchange of gunfire took place at about 3.45 pm when a Thai military unit patrolling the border about one kilometre west of the ancient Preah Vihear temple encountered a Cambodian military unit.

The Thai soldiers said the Cambodian troops had encroached about one kilometre into Thai territory, the statement said. Negotiations asking the Cambodian troops to withdraw as requested by the Thais failed.

"As the Thai military unit was moving out of the area to report to their commander, the Cambodian military unit opened fire at them," according to the Thai ministry statement.

"The Thai side was therefore compelled to return fire," the statement noted.

But Gen. Wiboonsak described the clash as an "accident" as Cambodian troops were rotating personnel at that time and Thai soldiers misjudged that they had encroached the Thai territory and the clash ensued.

The incident will be brought before next week's discussion between military personnel of the two countries, he said, adding that Thai troops would not be reinforced in the disputed area.

He said the two Thai wounded soldiers were now out of danger and are expected to stay at the hospital for one week.

Both Thai and Cambodian officials said the area was calm Saturday as an investigation was underway to determine how the incident occurred since troops on both sides have been ordered not to fire.

Tensions between the two neighbours flared up in July after Preah Vihear temple, which belongs to Cambodia, was awarded world heritage status by the UNESCO, angering Thai nationalists who still claim ownership of the 11th century temple.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the temple belongs to Cambodia, but the surrounding land remains in dispute.


Thailand lodges protest against alleged Cambodian intrusion


BANGKOK, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- Thai Foreign Ministry lodged a letter to Cambodian embassy Saturday afternoon to protest against what Thai authorities alleged Cambodian soldiers' intrusion into Thai territory and acts to open fire at Thai para-military rangers, which led to two injuries on Friday.

Thai Foreign Ministry Permanent Secretary Virasakdi Futrakul on Saturday invited Cambodia's charge d'affairs in Bangkok to lodge a protest letter.

The response came after Cambodia's similar act of lodging a protest letter to the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh earlier Saturday to blame Thai side for the Friday's border clash.

According to the Aide-Memoire issued Saturday by the Thai Foreign Ministry, the Thai side recorded Friday's clash, citing a report by the Second Army Region of the Royal Thai Army, that the Thai para-military rangers from Suranaree Task Force was patrolling along the border about one kilometer to the west of Phra Viharn (Preah Vihear) Temple at around 3:45 p.m. 0845 GMT within Thai soil when they discovered the intrusion of a group of Cambodian soldiers into Thai territory.

Four unarmed Thai rangers asked the Cambodian soldiers to leave, but the latter received instruction from superiors and started firing guns, first into the air then at the Thai rangers, causing the Thai side to return fire.

Two unarmed Thai rangers were found injured after the exchange of gunfire, according to the account.

The letter went on to say "the above-mentioned intrusion of the Cambodian soldiers into Thailand's territory is a serious violation of Thailand's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Furthermore, the shooting by the Cambodian troops against the unarmed Thai para-military rangers is regarded as a brutal and aggressive act and is contrary to the spirit of friendly relations between Cambodia and Thailand. It also constituted a grave violation of the agreement between the two Armed Forces made during the Special Meeting of the Thailand-Cambodia Regional Committee Meeting in Surin Province on 13 August 20-8 that both sides must refrain from digging trenches in the area around Khao Phra Viharn (Preah Vihear Mountain)."

The Thai government thus "strongly protests against the said act of aggression and the violation of Thailand's sovereignty and territorial integrity committed by the Cambodian soldiers," and demanded the Cambodian government to ensure that similar incident does not recur in the future.

Both sides have claimed their soldiers had acted in self-defense and accused the other side of intruding into their territory.

Earlier reports said one Cambodian soldier was wounded during the clash.

Meanwhile. Lt-Gen. Wiboonsak Neeparn, Thailand's Second Army Region commander said on Saturday that senior officers of both Thai and Cambodian armies were expected to meet next week to discuss the clash.

Wiboonsak, who oversees security affairs in northeastern Thailand, told journalists after visiting the two wounded soldiers at an army hospital in the northeastern border province of Ubon Ratchathani that the shooting took place in a disputed area of Kantharalak district bordering Cambodia, and gave assurances that military officers on both sides would deal responsibly with the situation.

But Wiboonsak described the clash as an "accident" as Cambodian troops were rotating personnel at that time and Thai soldiers misjudged that they had encroached the Thai territory and the clash ensued.

He added that Thai troops would not be reinforced in the disputed area.

He said the two Thai wounded rangers were now out of danger and are expected to stay at the hospital for one week.

Cambodian media reported that the Cambodian government was accusing Thai soldiers of being the first to open fire and went onto warn that "armed provocation by Thai soldiers could lead to very grave consequences, including full scale armed hostility".

Thai Prime Minister and Defence Minister Somchai Wongsawat will visit Cambodia on October 13 to negotiate over the border dispute, Gen Wichit Yathip, an aide of Deputy Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, said Saturday.

Thailand and Cambodia have been engaged in diplomatic quarrels and military stand-off tensions along the disputed border around Preah Vihear and at least two other ancient temples after Cambodia applied to UNESCO successfully to list the temple as World Heritage site in July, which resurrected sentiment among Thais who have been reluctant to accept the 1962 International Court of Justice verdict to award the ownership of the 11th-century temple to Cambodia.

Editor: Mu Xuequan

Thai, Cambodian troops clash over temple

Preah Vihear temple at Thai-Cambodia border

Sat, 04 Oct 2008

Thai forces have clashed with Cambodian troops at a disputed border line as each country blames the other for starting the violence.

According to an AFP report, Cambodian officials have accused the Thai border patrol of trespassing on Cambodian territory, which led to clashes between border security forces from the two countries. The charge was swiftly rejected by Thai authorities.

Thailand's Foreign Ministry announced that the violence broke out when Cambodian troops entered Thailand, and ended in a summary gunfire exchange between the two countries. "They had encroached about one kilometer (more than half a mile) into Thai territory," reported a Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman.

At least two Thai soldiers and one Cambodian border security guard were injured in the incident. High-ranking military officials have temporarily settled the issue while the two neighbors engage in dialogue to try to resolve a decades-long border dispute.

Border tensions grew after UNESCO declared the ancient Khmer temple of Preah Vihear a world heritage site, causing nationalistic feelings to flare on each side of the Thai-Cambodia border over the possession of the temple.


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