By Daniel Ten Kate
“The army chiefs are now talking,” Tharit said. “We asked for a ceasefire and do not want to use force.”
Cambodian and Thai troops engaged in “large-scale fighting” today, Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan said by phone. Two Thai soldiers were killed and six wounded, he said. Tharit denied the claim and said Thailand had suffered no deaths or injuries.
Two Cambodian soldiers were killed after soldiers fired at each other in at least three locations on the border, Agence France-Presse said, citing government spokesman Khieu Kanharith. Phay Siphan said he couldn’t confirm the Cambodian deaths.
The fighting erupted before the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Thailand and Cambodia are members, will hold a summit from April 10 to 12 in Pattaya south of Bangkok with the leaders of China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen plans to attend.
The disputed area has been the site of numerous incidents since July, when Thailand objected to Cambodia’s efforts to list Preah Vihear temple as a United Nations World Heritage site. The countries agreed in October to avoid clashes in the area after two Cambodian soldiers were killed in a gun battle.
Hun Sen warned Thailand on March 31 that fighting would break out should troops from its neighbor cross into Cambodian territory.
Thailand plans to write a letter of protest to Cambodia after a five-minute exchange of gunfire between their troops earlier today, Tharit said.
The shooting erupted after Thai troops invited the Cambodians to inspect the site where a soldier from Thailand stepped on a landmine and lost his leg, Tharit said.
The meeting failed to resolve matters and the Cambodians left, then started firing, Tharit said. Thai officers suspect a newly laid landmine caused yesterday’s blast, he said.
In 1962, the International Court of Justice ruled in a 9-3 vote that Cambodia had sovereignty over Preah Vihear. The court didn’t rule on the disputed land near the temple.
Thai and Cambodian officials have scheduled meetings to continue work on demarcating their 803-kilometer (499-mile) border. The two countries have yet to divide 10,422 square miles in the Gulf of Thailand that may contain oil and gas reserves.
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is due to visit Cambodia later this month.
To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel Ten Kate in Bangkok at