Saturday, 5 February 2011

Thai and Cambodian troops in deadly clash near temple

via CAAI

Feb 4, 2011

By Ambika Ahuja

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged fire on a disputed stretch of their border on Friday, a Thai military official said, the latest flare-up in an ancient feud over territory surrounding a 900-year-old Hindu temple.

Cambodian police said two Cambodian soldiers had been killed and two wounded.

Both sides accused each other of firing first in the heavily militarised area near the Preah Vihear temple, which is claimed by both Southeast Asian countries and saw fighting last year.

Shelling began at about 8 a.m. British time and continued more than an hour later, military officials and witnesses said. "There is sporadic shelling but details are very sketchy at this point," said a Thai army official.

A Thai regional commander in the area, Lieutenant General Thawatchai Samutsakorn, said no Thai injuries had been reported.

The temple, known as Preah Vihear in Cambodia and Khao Phra Viharn in Thailand, sits on an escarpment that forms a natural border and has been a source of tension for generations.

The International Court of Justice awarded it to Cambodia in 1962 but the ruling did not determine the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the ruins, leaving considerable scope for disagreement.

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

A small but prolonged protest by Thailand's "yellow shirt" activists has put pressure on Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to take a tougher line in the long-running dispute.

Adding to the tensions, the pro-establishment yellow shirts accuse their bitter foe, ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, of colluding with Cambodia to Thailand's detriment.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has also used age-old rivalry with Thailand for his own political ends.

(Additional reporting by Prak Chan Thul in Phnom Penh; Writing by Jason Szep; Editing by Alan Raybould)


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