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Border clashes leave one Cambodian soldier dead

Preah Vihear province
Fighting on Friday between Cambodian and Thai troops along the border has left one Cambodian dead and more than 10 injured, according to a military official.

An exchange of gunfire and artillery erupted at 3:10pm near the Preah Vihear temple complex and continued until about 5:30pm, said the official, who asked not to be named, adding that troops on both sides employed heavy artillery, tanks and machine guns.

Cambodian casualties, some of them severely wounded, were sent to a military health centre, the official said.

Preliminary reports from the frontlines stated that a Thai military base and two tanks had been destroyed in the exchange of fire, though there are no reports yet of Thai casualties, he said.

The official said that a Cambodian military meeting hall near the temple complex and a military-owned house several kilometres away were destroyed by Thai rocket fire.

The latest round of military clashes followed a Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation meeting this morning between Cambodian Foreign Ministery Hor Namhong and his Thai counterpart Kasit Piromya.

Hor Namhong said Friday evening that Cambodia would appeal to the United Nations regarding what he characterised as an invasion.

“We will appeal to the UN Security Council about Thailand’s invasion into Cambodia tonight if we can do it on time, or tomorrow morning,” he said at Phnom Penh International Airport on Friday night.

He said that at about 3pm, more than 300 Thai soldiers entered Cambodian territory at Wat Keo Sikha Kiri Svara adjacent to the Preah Vihear temple complex and fired mortars and artillery – 105mm, 130mm and 150mm shells – into Cambodian territory.

Hor Namhong added that Thai shells dropped as far as 18 to 20 kilometres beyond Preah Vihear temple inside Cambodia, and that Cambodian troops had arrested four Thai soldiers during the clashes.

The hostilities follow the sentencing Tuesday of Veera Somkwamkid, a well-known activist within Thailand’s nationalist Yellow Shirt movement, and his associate, Ratree Pipatanapaiboon, to eight- and six-year prison terms respectively.

Veera and Ratree were convicted by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court of espionage, illegal entry and unlawfully entering a military base after being arrested in Banteay Meanchey province last month.

The fighting also comes amid a public spat with Thai Prime Minister Ahbisit Vejjajiva over the placement of Cambodian flags at Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvara, a pagoda adjacent to the Preah Vihear temple.

Yim Phim, commander of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Brigage 43 in Preah Vihear, said on Thursday that troops on both sides of the border had received reinforcements and additional equipment this week.

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith, government spokesman Phay Siphan and Srey Doek, commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Military Division 3 at the border were unavailable for comment on Friday.

Periodic skirmishes between Cambodian and Thai border forces have killed at least seven soldiers since 2008.

Additional reporting by Chhay Channyda in Phnom Penh

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