A cross border exchange of gunfire between Thai and Cambodian border patrol troops killed at least two soldiers on Friday. The clash occurred near disputed territory surrounding an 11th century Khmer temple, the site of clashes late last year.
Both Thailand and Cambodia claim the land surrounding the ancient Preah Vihear Temple
The cross border fire-fight follows rising tensions along the border during the week after a Thai border patrol soldier was injured after stepping on a landmine.
Reports from both Thai and Cambodian sources were unclear over the numbers of dead and wounded from the clash near the site of disputed territory surrounding an 11th century Khmer temple. Both sides said they had suffered casualties.
Clashes near the temple site of Preah Vihear occurred in July last year when Thailand was critical of Cambodia’s efforts to list the temple as a United Nations Heritage site. Thailand had always called for the listing to be undertaken by both countries.
Thailand launches investigation
Thai Government spokesman, Panitan Wattanayagorn, said investigations were underway into the events that led up to the clash.
"There are a few casualties on both sides," says Panitan. "We are still verifying, waiting for the confirmation on these casualties. The investigation is underway. The possible causes should be some misunderstanding or unclear demarcations. But that has to be verified."
The clash comes just a week before Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is to host a further leader’s summit from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Thailand. Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen is among those to attend the gathering of the 10-nation ASEAN.
Attempts to ease the tensions
Panitan said there had been high level communications through the day to ease the tensions along the border.
"Different ministers of Thailand and the leaders of Cambodia are in communication with each other. They have agreed to find out what happened and are trying to solve the problem quickly."
A spokesman for the Cambodian government said Thai and Cambodian soldiers had fired at each other with machine guns and rocket launchers. Earlier, the Cambodian authorities had claimed Thai troops had entered Cambodian territory, with Cambodian troops opening fire.
Thailand last year claimed Cambodian troops had been laying landmines – in contravention of international agreements – along the border in October. Two Thai rangers were injured after stepping on landmines three days after a fire fight that left troops wounded on both sides.
In 1962 the International Court of Justice granted sovereignty over the 900 year old Preah Vihear Temple to Cambodia, but the main access routes to the temple lie on the Thai side of the border.