Thai soldiers patrol at the entrance of the Preah Vihear temple in Si Sa Ket province near the Thai-Cambodia border, 03 Apr 2009
By Daniel Schearf
Voice of America
03 April 2009
Thai officials say border clashes between Thai and Cambodian soldiers have left at least two Thai soldiers dead and seven others wounded. There were conflicting reports of casualties on the Cambodian side.
The casualties came after Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged fire in two incidents Friday in a disputed border area.
The first clash was early Friday morning. Thailand's foreign ministry issued a statement saying there were no casualties on the Thai side from the morning fighting.
But, more fighting broke out during the afternoon and Thai officials later confirmed the casualties.
There were conflicting reports of casualties on the Cambodian side.
Cambodian foreign ministry spokesman Koy Kuong says Thai soldiers were to blame for starting the fighting on what he called Cambodian territory.
"This is a disgraceful and intentional aggression without any legal ground by the Thai soldiers," he said.
Thailand's foreign ministry in turn blamed the Cambodian side for starting the fighting and encroaching on what it said was Thai territory.
Thailand's government spokesman, Panitan Wattanyagorn, says there were casualties on both sides, but he could not give exact numbers as the situation was still under investigation. He sought to play down the clashes, saying the incidents were possibly sparked by a misunderstanding.
"This is not a war. This is not a sharp conflict," he said. "This is just a border incident, a small incident that has taken place."
A Thai soldier lost his leg Thursday after stepping on a landmine in the area. The Thai foreign ministry statement says the landmine was believed to be laid recently and that Thai soldiers were in the disputed area to investigate the incident.
Both sides confirmed their military commanders in the met soon after the fighting to discuss the incidents.
The fighting took place near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, where both sides claim territory.
An international court in 1962 declared the temple to be in Cambodian territory but Thai nationalists dispute the ruling.
Border clashes first broke out last year after the UN granted world heritage status to the temple.
Fighting has periodically broken out since then, with casualties on both sides.