The Associated Press
Friday, February 4, 2011
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- Shooting broke out Friday between Cambodian and Thai soldiers on disputed territory along their shared border. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan said the fighting occurred near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, which belongs to Cambodia. Thailand claims a small patch of land near the temple.
Sporadic artillery fire could be heard two hours later on a live interview on the Spring News TV website with a schoolmaster near the border, and in other Thai media reports.
Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said the fighting erupted when Thai troops ignored Cambodian warnings to stop crossing into their territory. He said the Cambodians fired warning shots into the air and the Thai soldiers returned fire.
Thailand disputed that account. Thai army spokesman Col. Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the clash was triggered by artillery shots fired from the Cambodian side that fell on Thai territory.
"We don't want to say that it was intentional. It could have been caused by a misunderstanding," he told The Associated Press, adding that Thai troops returned fire as a warning.
Sansern said the Thai army commander and other senior officers were talking to Cambodian military authorities about the incident. He said no injuries had been reported and there had been no order to evacuate local residents from the area. However, Thai TV station TPBS showed villagers fleeing for safety.
Maj. Prom Sarouen, commander of the Cambodian police unit guarding Preah Vihear temple, confirmed by phone that fighting was continuing, with both sides using artillery and heavy machine guns.
Cambodia's relations with Thailand have been contentious for years. They have had a series of small but sometimes deadly skirmishes over the demarcation of the border near the Preah Vihear temple.