Saturday, 4 October 2008

Cambodia says soldier hurt in gunfight with Thais

International Herald Tribune
The Associated Press
Published: October 3, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: A Cambodian soldier was wounded Friday in a reported exchange of gunfire with troops from Thailand along their volatile border, Cambodian officials said. Thai officials said they were unaware of the incident.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said the soldier was slightly wounded when Thai troops fired an M-79 grenade from their territory. He said Cambodian troops returned fire, with the "military incident" lasting less than a minute.

Tensions along Cambodia's border with Thailand were heightened earlier this year when the two sides raised decades-old claims to land around ancient temples in the area. The encounter took place about two miles (three kilometers) west of Preah Vihear, a disputed 11th century temple held by Cambodia.

The normally peaceful border between Cambodia and northeastern Thailand became a hot spot on July 15 after UNESCO, the U.N.'s cultural agency, approved Cambodia's application to have the Preah Vihear complex named a World Heritage Site.

Both countries have long held claim to the temple, but the World Court awarded it to Cambodia in 1962.

The government of Thailand's then-prime minister, Samak Sundaravej had backed Cambodia's World Heritage site bid, sparking demonstrations by anti-government protesters who claimed the temple's new status would undermine Thailand's claim to the surrounding area.

On July 15, Thailand sent troops to occupy the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda — claimed by Cambodia and near Preah Vihear.

Cambodia responded with its own troop deployment. The two sides came close to a shoot-out on July 17 when Cambodian monks sought to celebrate Buddhist lent in the pagoda.

Several rounds of talks to talks to resolve the conflicting claims have been held, but without much progress.

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