Home > Local News > Thai, Cambodian troops in deadly clash near temple

Thai, Cambodian troops in deadly clash near temple

A Cambodian
soldier inspect the corpse of a Thai soldier killed during the clash
4th Feb. 2011. Photo by Reuters and published by Paris Match.com.
* Area surrounding temple claimed by both countries * Cambodians say two of their soldiers killed * Fighting stops after just over two hours of shelling (Recasts with fighting ending, adds Thai fatality)
 
BANGKOK, Feb 4 (Reuters)
Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged fire in a two-hour border clash
on Friday that killed two Cambodian soldiers and a Thai villager, the
latest in an ancient feud over land surrounding a 900-year-old Hindu
temple.

The fatalities were the first in the militarised border
area since a Thai soldier was shot dead a year ago and could rekindle
diplomatic tensions between the Southeast Asian neighbours over the
11th-century Preah Vihear temple.

Cambodian
Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said Cambodia would file a complaint with
the U.N. Security Council, accusing Thailand of invading Cambodian
territory.

Both sides accused each other of firing first in the
4.6-sq-km (two-sq-mile) disputed area around Preah Vihear, a
jungle-clad escarpment claimed by both countries and scene of deadly,
sporadic clashes in recent years.

Several Thai soldiers were
also wounded and four Thai villages were evacuated, Thai media
reported. Five Thai soldiers were captured, said army spokesman Sansern
Kaewkamnerd.

“It seems to have been a result of a
misunderstanding,” Thai army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters.
“There is no point in fighting because it could escalate and damage
relations… We don’t want that.”

The Cambodian government
accused the Thai army of targeting Cambodian villagers and said the
fighting erupted when Thai soldiers illegally entered Cambodia
territory.

“We said to them ‘don’t come in the area’ and they
still came. We fired into the air and they began to shoot at us,” said
Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith.

CLASH MAY SPUR THAI NATIONALIST PROTEST

The
clash comes three days after a Cambodian court handed down jail terms
of six and eight years to two Thai nationalists found guilty of
trespassing and spying in the border region, a verdict that has angered
some in Thailand.

Shelling began at about 3 p.m. (0800 GMT) and
continued into early evening. Artillery shells landed at several
villages on the Thai side, setting at least four houses on fire,
witnesses said.

A Thai police colonel, Chatchawan Kaewchandee,
said at least one villager was killed during the shelling. “We found
one body of a male villager and there might be more,” he said.

The
fighting could give a boost to a small but prolonged protest by
Thailand’s “yellow shirt” activists demanding Prime Minister Abhisit
Vejjajiva take a tougher line against Cambodia.

Chamlong
Srimuang, a yellow shirt leader, said his group would step up pressure
on the government, saying the fighting showed that Abhisit was weak in
handling border tensions.

“We have warned about this sort of
thing for a long time. We didn’t call for a clash just for the
government to show our military strength precisely to prevent any clash
from taking place,” he told reporters.

The temple, known as
Preah Vihear in Cambodia and Khao Phra Viharn in Thailand, sits on land
that forms a natural border and has been a source of tension for
generations. [ ID:nSGE71306G ]

The International Court of
Justice awarded it to Cambodia in 1962 but the ruling did not determine
the ownership of the scrub next to the ruins, leaving considerable
scope for disagreement.

The fighting coincided with meetings in
Cambodia between Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and his Cambodian
counterpart aimed at reducing tensions. (Additional reporting by Prak
Chan Thul in Phnom Penh; Writingby Jason Szep; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Source: Reuters 
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Categories: Local News
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