Following last week's clash between Thai and Laotian troops across the Mekong river forming the border between the two countries, ten tanks and an artillery unit are now reported to have been sent to reinforce Thai troops in the Nong Khai Province - the area where the incident occurred.
GV PAN OF Laotian bank of river ACROSS TO Thailand bank with gunboat moored
SV ZOOM OUT FROM Thai gunboat patrolling river TO soldier manning gun on stationary gunboat
CU Soldier manning guns (2 shots)
SV Thai officer looking through binoculars across river
LV Gunboat returning down river
(BANGKOK) GV Students marching through streets and chanting through streets and chanting on route to Laotian Embassy (3 shots)
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Background: Following last week's clash between Thai and Laotian troops across the Mekong river forming the border between the two countries, ten tanks and an artillery unit are now reported to have been sent to reinforce Thai troops in the Nong Khai Province - the area where the incident occurred. Bangkok newspapers have said that the reinforcements are intended to provide additional security for marines and frogmen who will make a fresh attempt to recover a Thai Navy patrol boat which was grounded by Pathet Lao fire on a mid-river sand-bank last Monday (17 November).
One Thai sailor was killed and three wounded in the shooting, during which both sides exchanged artillery and mortar fire, and two Thai aircraft attacked positions on the Laotian bank. The incident sparked off a two-day exchange of sporadic gunfire across the river.
Thailand's Minister of Defence, Mr. Pramarn Adireksan, travelled to Nong Khai on Sunday (23 November) to inspect the scene of the clash, which has brought relations between the neighbouring countries to their lowest ebb since the Pathet Lao took over the government of Laos six months ago.
Laos has rejected a Thai proposal for talks to solve the dispute over Thailand's Mekong River patrols, which Bangkok says are necessary to prevent smuggling, arms trafficking and infiltration from Laos into northeast Thailand. Laos had laid down three conditions for the talks to take place - the abolition of the patrols; the halting of Thai support for Laotian reactionaries; and improved treatment of Laotian refugees in Thailand.
The dispute stems from a 50 year-old treaty between Thailand and the French colonial rulers of Indo-China, which fixed the river borderline which the Bangkok Government considers is disadvantageous to Thailand.
On Friday (21 November) about 1,500 Thai students staged a peaceful demonstration at the Laotian Embassy in Bangkok. They were protesting against the incident. On the same day the Thai Government delivered an aide-memoire to the Embassy, urging the Laotians to cooperate as soon as possible "to solve various problems before the situation between our countries deteriorates further or endangers our relations".
A side effect of the incident has been to drastically inhibit normal life in the three border post towns of Tha Bo, So Chiang Mai and Tha Sadej. All three have been sealed off since the shooting, and most activities have come to a halt. Groups of tourists, mostly French and Japanese who arrived in Nong Khai in the past week hoping to cross over the river to Laos, were turned back. Most of them decided to return to Bangkok, so depriving local tradesmen of a main source of business.