CAMBODIAN and Thai troops exchanged gunfire twice on Sunday morning at the contested border near Preah Vihear temple, military officials said.
Colonel Meas Yoeun, deputy military commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces at Preah Vihear, said the fighting broke out some 20 kilometres east of Preah Vihear temple after Thai troops intruded about 200 metres into Cambodian territory and opened fire. Cambodian troops subsequently fired eight B-40 rockets into Thai territory.
Meas Yoeun said the skirmish lasted about five minutes, and that another broke out shortly afterwards.
Cambodian troops, officials said, sustained no casualties.
“We controlled the situation because we are veterans on the battlefield,” Meas Yoeun said.
A Thai army official, who asked not to be named, said no one had been injured on the Thai side either. He disputed Cambodia’s account of the clash, however, saying it broke out after Thai soldiers patrolling for illegal loggers came upon Cambodian troops in Thai territory.
“The Thai army understood the Cambodians were smugglers, while Cambodian troops opened fire. However, it was only a warning fire. It came from a misunderstanding. Everything is now clear,” he said.
Ministry of Defence spokesman Chhum Socheat said the hostilities had not been planned in advance.
“I think it is not the intention to have clashes because they were not ordered by the top military commanders from both sides,” Chhum Socheat said, adding that the situation at the border was quiet on Sunday afternoon.
Fighting near Preah Vihear has claimed at least seven lives in total from both sides since July 2008, when tensions over the 11th-century temple’s listing as a UNESCO World Heritage site of Cambodia erupted in a series of armed clashes.
The skirmishes on Sunday occurred during a visit to Preah Vihear by Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong, who admonished RCAF troops to be brave defending their territory even as he called for relations with Thailand to be improved through diplomatic means.
“The government position is that we want to solve the problem bilaterally and peacefully,” he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP