Cambodian, Thai soldiers exchange fire at border

April 3rd, 2009 - 11:39 am ICT by IANS  

Phnom Penh/Bangkok, April 3 (DPA) Cambodian and Thai soldiers exchanged gunfire Friday morning at a disputed border area where a fatal skirmish between the two South East Asian neighbours erupted last year, officials from both countries confirmed.
No casualties were reported in the clash at the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan said.

He said about a dozen Thai troops crossed the border about 7.15 a.m. and were immediately confronted by Cambodian soldiers.

However, Thai Army spokeswoman Colonel Sirichan Ngathong said the brief skirmish started after a team of Thai investigating soldiers went to the disputed area to find out how a Thai soldier had earlier stepped on a landmine and been badly injured.

When the soldiers where confronted by Cambodian troops the two sides at first talked but the Cambodian side fired shots that triggered an exchange of fire lasting perhaps 10 minutes, she said.

No Thai troops were hurt in the clash. Local regional commanders will meet later Friday with their Cambodian counterparts somewhere nearby to cool things down, Sirichan added.

The firefight came a day after a Thai soldier was badly injured by a landmine near the site, which both countries claim falls within their territory.

Thailand and Cambodia nearly came to blows over the Preah Vihear temple in July, shortly after UNESCO named the ancient Hindu temple a World Heritage Site despite Thai objections. Both countries have kept a troop presence at in the area.

The temple, the object of disputed claims between Thailand and Cambodia since the 1950s, was granted to Cambodia by a ruling of the International Court of Justice in 1962.

But land adjacent to the temple compound, including its main entrance on the Thai side, has been claimed by both countries.

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