hailand accused Vietnam today of seeking "a direct confrontation" with the Thai Army and appealed for international support in defending its territory.
The statement was issued as part of a Thai diplomatic offensive in which the Foreign Ministry summoned ambassadors from more than 20 countries--including Vietnam and the Soviet Union--and called for world condemnation of Hanoi's "indiscriminate attacks" on Cambodian civilians.
The declaration came amid continued fighting between Thai and Vietnamese forces along the Thai-Cambodian border and followed the use of napalm yesterday by Thai warplanes against Vietnamese intruders.
While an Army spokesman denied a report that two F5E jets had dropped napalm in air strikes against Vietnamese troops said to have dug in on Thai territory, the report was confirmed by a senior Thai civilian official and an officer at the military Supreme Command. The air strikes were believed to mark the first time that napalm has been used in combat in Southeast Asia since the Vietnam War.
There were conflicting reports as to whether Thai forces had succeeded in dislodging two small Vietnamese units, which reportedly took positions up to a mile inside Thai territory opposite the overrun Cambodian settlement of Phnom Chat, formerly controlled by Khmer Rouge guerrillas.
According to an official at the Supreme Command, the results of the air strikes were uncertain, but Thai authorities believed at least one Vietnamese position was knocked out.
The official said Vietnamese occupation troops attacking Cambodian resistance forces about 120 miles to the northeast succeeded today in capturing the Cambodian refugee settlement of O Smach, which is controlled by a resistance faction loyal to exiled Prince Norodom Sihanouk. Most of the camp's 30,000 inhabitants fled north across the Thai border when it came under assault during the weekend, and the remaining defenders scattered today, authorities said.
Today's statement by the Thai Foreign Ministry accused the Vietnamese of carrying out a "cruel and barbarous liquidation" of the Cambodian people along the border with Thailand. "By these acts, the security of Thailand and that of the entire region are being seriously threatened."
"Vietnam clearly intends to seek a direct confrontation with Thailand by force," the statement said. "Vietnamese forces have intruded into Thailand and have held Thai territory, which has led to violent engagements between the two sides."
The statement said Thailand was determined "to expel the intruders speedily and by every means." It appealed for international condemnation of Vietnam and for "support to Thailand in the defense of its sovereignty and territorial integrity."
Vietnam denied that its forces had crossed into Thailand and countered with charges of Thai "intervention and sabotage," The Associated Press reported. The Foreign Ministry in Hanoi was quoted as saying that reports of Vietnamese attacks on refugees were slanderous but that Cambodia had "punished" Khmer Rouge rebels with the help of "Vietnamese volunteer troops."
The Thai statement came shortly after U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Paul Wolfowitz arrived in Bangkok as part of a previously scheduled tour of several Asian capitals. U.S. officials said Wolfowitz would pursue consultations on possible American assistance in view of the current conflict.
A senior U.S. diplomat said Thailand had expressed interest in "humanitarian aid" to help care for the estimated 50,000 Cambodian refugees who have crossed into Thailand to escape the Vietnamese offensive. However, the diplomat said, "We don't exclude the possibility" of also sending military supplies to Thailand, which is allied to the United States in a defense treaty.
Wolfowitz was scheduled to visit the border area Wednesday, but Thai officials tonight said the trip was canceled on orders of the Army commander in chief, Gen. Arthit Kamlang-ek.
Arthit conferred today with military commanders about the situation on the border, which he termed "very serious." He said that unlike the hit-and-run tactics employed during past Vietnamese incursions into Thai territory, "this time they intend to confront Thai troops." Reinforcements reportedly were dispatched to the border.