Cambodian and Thai troops open fire on each other with small arms and artillery as tensions in disputed territory near Preah Vihear temple boil over
Photo by: AFP/TANG CHHIN SOTHY
PHOTO: A Cambodian soldier stands guard over 10 Thai troops captured during heavy clashes Wednesday on the border near Preah Vihear temple.
Heavy fighting erupted Wednesday on the border near Preah Vihear temple, killing at least two Cambodian soldiers and wounding two others, Cambodia's Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said. Several Thai troops were also hurt in the clash, a Cambodian military commander said as a standoff over disputed border territory that has simmered since July turned violent.
"This is very serious," said General Chea Saran, deputy commander of infantry operating on the frontier between the two countries.
An unnamed military officer at the Ministry of Defence also confirmed that the two sides engaged in battle at Veal Antri, saying that a Thai helicopter had fired on the Cambodian lines, with the Cambodians responding with anti-aircraft weapons.
The fighting lasted for more than two hours before Thai military commanders asked for negotiations, said Chum Chamrong, deputy commander of military police in Preah Vihear province.
Tensions have been building on the frontier since Thai troops reportedly crossed the border into Cambodia in July. Several rounds of crisis talks, the most recent occurring on Monday between Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat and his Cambodian counterpart, Hor Namhong, and Prime Minister Hun Sen, have failed to find a solution.
Soldiers from both sides engaged in a brief firefight at Veal Antri on October 3, wounding three troops. Two Thai soldiers were badly wounded when they stepped on land mines two days later while patrolling near the Cambodian front lines.
Following Monday's negotiations, Hun Sen threatened to turn the border into a "battle zone" if Thai troops did not leave Cambodia. Cambodian commanders said Tuesday that Thailand withdrew its soldiers - a claim that was disputed by Bangkok.
Loun An, deputy governor of Oddar Meanchey province, said Cambodian and Thai troops have shelled each other, and some 40 Thai troops have been surrounded by Cambodian soldiers.
Ten Thai troops near Preah Vihear temple were captured during the clash, military officials said.
In Phnom Penh, fears of a repeat of the 2003 anti-Thai riots forced the Thai embassy to send its non-essential staff home, while Thailand's foreign minister said he was prepared to evacuate Thai citizens, according to wire service reports.