Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Gunfire Erupts along Thai-Cambodia Border

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Gunfire Erupts along Thai-Cambodia Border

Article excerpt

In a reprisal of a simmering border row, Thai and Cambodian troops exchanged gunfire Wednesday near a hilltop Hindu temple whose disputed ownership prompted a military standoff in July. The clash is a setback for efforts to negotiate a settlement to the longstanding territorial claims, but seems unlikely to spark a wider conflict.

Cambodia said two of its soldiers had died in the fighting, while Thailand said it had five men injured. Cambodia also said it had captured 10 Thai soldiers during the clash, which erupted Wednesday afternoon, one day after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a strongly worded ultimatum for Thailand to pull back troops from the disputed area.

However, Thai and Cambodian government officials said publicly Wednesday that the dispute can be settled peacefully through talks. A Thai intelligence official said a joint military border committee would be convened Thursday in a bid to calm tensions. Similar measures were used after troops flooded the area in July when anger flared in Thailand over the UN's listing of Preah Vihear temple as a Cambodian heritage site.

Tensions rise in testy relationship

But in a sign of the testy relationship between the two neighboring countries, Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat urged Thai nationals to immediately leave Cambodia. Military fighter jets and transport planes are already on standby for evacuations.

"Our forces are on alert and ready to support the Army's possible operations on the border," Thai Air Force official Group Capt. Montol Satchukorn told the Associated Press. "These are just precautionary measures. It's not that we are going to war."

In 2003, a Cambodian mob torched the Thai Embassy in the capital, Phnom Penh, after a Thai actress was quoted as saying that Angkor Wat, another temple in Cambodia, belonged to Thailand. The remark caused a nationalist uproar that was exploited by politicians in Cambodia.

Both sides accuse the other of shooting first Wednesday along the border, which has never been properly demarcated and is still littered with land mines from Cambodia's civil war. …

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