Thai, Cambodian troops clash in disputed border region
At least three soldiers were killed during gunfights near a 900-year-old temple, whose ownership has been contested by both sides.
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Friday's gun battles come a day after a Thai soldier lost a leg to a land mine in a forest near Preah Vihear, reports The Phnom Penh Post. The Post writes that the soldier had been on patrol when he stepped on the mine, which had probably been placed there years before, according to a Cambodian military official.Skip to next paragraph
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Yim Phim, commander of Brigade 8, said the Cambodian troops "don't dare walk" in the area where the Thai soldier was wounded.
"Mines were laid there during the fighting in the 1980s and 1990s," he said, referring to clashes between government troops and resistance fighters.
"After talks between the two sides failed, the Cambodian side started to walk away and turned back to open fire at Thai troops with rifles and RPG rockets, forcing the Thai side to fire back in self-defence," said a statement from Thailand's foreign ministry.
"It was an accident, a misunderstanding among officials on the ground, which is common when you are closely positioned," said Thai Defense Minister Pravit Wongsuwan.
However, the Cambodian foreign ministry called it an "intended aggressive invasion by the Thai military", and said a letter of protest would be sent to Thailand.
The Associated Press reports that a Cambodian soldier said they opened fire only after some 60 Thai soldiers entered Cambodian territory, sparking a gun battle that lasted about 10 minutes. The AP adds that neither side reported any casualties in the first round of fighting.
The BBC notes that the battles come just days before representatives from Thailand and Cambodia were scheduled to discuss the issue peacefully. The Cambodia-Thailand Joint Border Committee was set to begin three days of talks on Sunday, in the Cambodian town of Siem Reap. Bloomberg adds that leaders of the two countries are scheduled to meet during an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit next week, and that Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is due to visit Cambodia later in April.