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Clashes on Thai-Cambodian border


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Clashes on Thai-Cambodian border



Troops from Thailand and Cambodia have exchanged heavy gunfire twice during the day in a disputed border area.


The Thai army said at least one of its soldiers was killed and seven others wounded by Cambodian rocket fire.


The second more serious outbreak of firing near the ancient temple of Preah Vihear happened in the afternoon, despite both sides meeting for talks.


Each side accused the other of firing first, in what is seen by analysts as a significant heightening in tensions.


The BBC's Guy De Launey in Phnom Penh says the clashes come days before fresh talks between the two sides over the disputed territory.


The Cambodia-Thailand Joint Border Committee is expected to hold three days of talks in the Cambodian resort town of Siem Reap, starting on Sunday.


Landmine injury


The first, brief exchange of fire took place early on Friday, in the disputed zone where opposing troops are sometimes stationed within metres of each other.


Talks over lunch between the two sides' commanders were supposed to ease the tension, says our correspondent.



1962: International court awards temple to Cambodia, but surrounding land remains undesignated

1970s-1990s: Khmer Rouge guerrillas occupy site

2001-2002: Thai troops block access over water row

July 2008: Unesco lists temple as a World Heritage Site

July 2008: Thai FM quits after court rules he violated constitution for backing Cambodia's Unesco bid

July 2008: Both sides move troops to temple area

Oct 2008: Troops exchange fire, leaving two Cambodian soldiers dead

But a Cambodian government official told the BBC that the second exchange was spread over a wider area and involved heavier weaponry than the morning incident.


One Thai soldier was killed and seven wounded, the Thai foreign ministry and the military were quoted by media as saying.


The fighting appeared to have started after a Thai patrol visited the site where a Thai soldier was injured after stepping on a landmine on Thursday.


"After talks between the two sides failed, the Cambodian side started to walk away and turned back to open fire at Thai troops with rifles and RPG rockets, forcing the Thai side to fire back in self-defence," said a statement from Thailand's foreign ministry.


"It was an accident, a misunderstanding among officials on the ground, which is common when you are closely positioned," said Thai Defence Minister Pravit Wongsuwan.


However, the Cambodian foreign ministry called it an "intended aggressive invasion by the Thai military", and said a letter of protest would be sent to Thailand.


Thailand and Cambodia share a border that runs for nearly 800km (500 miles), much of it heavily mined.


An international court awarded Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia in 1962, but a 5-sq-km (1.9-sq-mile) patch of land surrounding it remains the subject of rival territorial claims.


Soldiers from the two countries have been stationed in the area since tensions increased in July last year, after it was listed by Cambodia as a World Heritage Site.


Two Cambodian soldiers were killed there in October in a gun battle. Last week, Cambodia accused Thai troops of crossing over briefly into its territory.


Story from BBC NEWS:



Published: 2009/04/03 12:44:50 GMT




Full Story here BBC News




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Heres another version


Cambodia says 4 Thai troops killed in border clash

By SOPHENG CHEANG – 7 hours ago


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Thai and Cambodian soldiers revived a long-simmering dispute over an 11th century temple near their border, trading fire Friday with machine guns and rocket launchers in clashes that left as many as four people dead.

The latest flare-up — if not quickly resolved — could overshadow a summit of Asian leaders opening next week in the Thai coastal town of Pattaya. The summit already was delayed once in December after anti-government demonstrators took over Thailand's two main airports in Bangkok.

The fighting broke out near the cliff-top Preah Vihear temple, which is on the Cambodian side of an ill-defined border. Soldiers clashed again hours later, but the area was quiet by evening and the two sides were in talks to defuse the crisis.

Accounts from the two sides varied on casualties and other details. Both sides said Cambodia fired first, but Cambodian officials said it was because Thais strayed into their territory, while Thailand's Foreign Ministry denied that its soldiers left its territory. The ministry said the Thai soldiers were investigating a land mine blast the previous day that blew off a leg of their colleague.

Both sides said the other fired machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said four Thai soldiers were killed and 10 captured. Thailand's Foreign Ministry insisted only one Thai soldier was killed, seven were injured and none was taken prisoner, while two Thai army officers, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, said two soldiers were killed and 10 injured.

"The fighting has stopped. Commanders from both sides are talking," Maj. Nou Sarath, a Cambodian soldier at the border, told The Associated Press.

Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said the talks later adjourned and would resume Saturday.

Leaders in both countries have a history of playing to nationalist sentiment in soveriegnty disputes.

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen is a blunt, tough-talking leader who has warned that he is willing to go to war over the temple.

Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is more diplomatic but his supporters include the yellow-shirted activists of the People Alliance for Democracy, who are intensely nationalistic and last year rallied around the temple dispute in their campaign against the previous government. They brought the administration to a near standstill in November by besieging government offices and the Bangkok airports.

Michael Montesano, a research fellow at Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, said Abhisit cannot afford to be seen as weak on this issue.

"The yellow shirts made Preah Vihear an issue and any feeling on their part that Abhisit is insufficiently nationalist and insufficiently tough with the Khmer (Cambodians) could risk the yellow shirts withdrawing some of their support," he said.

The World Court awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, but sovereignty over the surrounding land has never been clearly resolved.

Tensions flared last July when UNESCO, the U.N. cultural agency, approved Cambodia's bid to have the Preah Vihear temple named a World Heritage Site, leading some Thais to believe their claims to the surrounding land was being undermined.

The tensions erupted in brief border clashes last year, killing two Cambodian soldiers and one Thai, and both sides have stepped up deployment of soldiers at the border since then.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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They should hold the talks in Pattaya in order to reduce tensions.

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