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Cambodia PM says Thai border conflict "not a war"

Written By vibykhmer on Saturday, April 4, 2009 | 12:51 AM


By Ek Madra

PHNOM PENH, April 4 (Reuters) - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Saturday a border clash with Thailand around a 900-year-old Hindu temple would not escalate into a more serious conflict.

"I regard the fighting yesterday as an incident, not a war," Hun Sen said a day after Thai and Cambodian troops exchanged rifle and rocket fire near the Preah Vihear temple that has been a source of tension for decades.
Cambodia suffered no casualties, while Thai authorities said two of their soldiers were killed and nine wounded in the worst fighting since a military stand-off near the temple last year.

"I don't want to see these incidents repeated or fighting expand to other areas," Hun Sen told a group of disabled soldiers during a visit to the coastal province of Kampot. Both sides accused each other of firing first in two separate clashes on Friday, which Thailand called a "misunderstanding".

Preah Vihear, or Khao Phra Viharn as it is known in Thailand, sits on an escarpment that forms the natural border between the two countries and has been a source of tension for generations.

The International Court of Justice awarded it to Cambodia in 1962, but the ruling did not determine the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the ruins, leaving considerable scope for disagreement.

A joint border committee set up to demarcate the jungle-clad border area after last year's clashes, which killed one Thai and three Cambodian soldiers, will meet again on Sunday for three days of talks.

Both sides have talked about developing the site into a tourist destination. The site is some 600 km (370 miles) east of Bangkok and only a decade ago was controlled by remnants of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge guerrilla army.

(Additional reporting by Vithoon Amorn in Bangkok)
(Writing by Darren Schuettler; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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