Fighting breaks out between Thai and Cambodian troops


Bangkok/Phnom Penh : The Thai military said Friday that Cambodian forces had fired artillery rounds into Thailand near Preah Vihear temple on the joint border, while the Cambodian side blamed Thai troops.

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Thai radio reports said an estimated 20 shells landed on Thailand’s side of the border in Kantalarak district in Si Sa Ket province, 350 km east of Bangkok.

“We can confirm that there has been a clash, but we are still checking the details,” said army spokesman Colonel Sansern Keowkhamnerd.

The Thai army was reportedly bulldozing a road in the border area, which has been the subject of numerous spats over the past two-and-a-half years.

A spokesman for the Cambodian government blamed fighting on Thai troops.

Phay Siphan claimed Thai soldiers had crossed 500 metres into Cambodian territory and opened fire despite the efforts of Cambodian troops to avoid violence.

He said fighting had begun at 3 p.m. (0800 GMT) and was ongoing more than an hour later.

Phay Siphan said fighting was underway near Keo Sikha Kirisvara temple, which Thailand claims stands on disputed territory.

There was no word on casualties.

Bangkok recently insisted that Cambodia remove a flag flying over the temple, a demand that Cambodia’s Foreign Minister Hor Namhong rejected earlier Friday after a meeting with his Thai counterpart.

The clashes come hours after Hor Namhong and Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya wrapped up a meeting stating that a recent build-up of troops would not lead to violence.

Thai and Cambodian forces have faced off along the mountain range around the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple since July 2008, when UNESCO declared the edifice a World Heritage Site despite Thai objections.

Although the World Court in 1962 ruled that the temple belonged to Cambodia, Thailand claims a 4.6 sq km plot of land adjacent to the temple, and has blocked Cambodians’ efforts to turn the site into a tourism attraction until the border dispute is settled.