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Thai, Cambodian military seek to defuse border tensions

Written By vibykhmer on Friday, April 3, 2009 | 3:44 AM

http://everyday.com.kh/images/imageeday/2005/news/09-04-03n_cam.soldier_vihea_afp.jpgBANGKOK, April 3 (TNA) - Thai Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan on Friday said Thai and Cambodian military officers discussed defusing tensions, after the two countries border guard troops exchanged gunfire in an early morning border incident in disputed territory near the ancient Preah Vihear temple.

A Thai soldier lost a leg in a land mine explosion on Thursday but Thai and Cambodian officers disagreed over which country he was in at the time.

Gen. Prawit said the incident was the result of a misunderstanding between operations officers of both sides along the border.

His remarks came two days after the Cambodian premier Hun Sen warned Thailand that it would face fighting if its troops crossed the disputed border.

Maj-Gen. Thawatchai Samutsakorn, deputy chief of Thailand’s second army, said the exchange of gunfire took place about 7am on Friday, three kilometres west of Preah Vihear temple or Phra Viharn as it is known in Thailand. There were no reports of any casualties from either side.

The clash broke off in the yet-to-be-demarcated disputed area of 4.6 sq km (1.8 sq miles) where Sgt-Maj. Suwat Chanaboon lost his left leg after stepping on a landmine while patrolling the border, the senior military officer said.

Cambodian forces said the Thai soldier was on their soil when the mine exploded.

Cambodia accused Thai troops of crossing the border, a charge Thailand has publicly denied.

Gen. Thawatchai rushed to the clash site to discuss the situation with Cambodian military officers.

It was the latest incident in a long-standing conflict over contesting claims to land surrounding the historic Preah Vihear temple, awarded World Heritage Site status by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) last year.

The incident marked the first deadly cross-border shooting since last October's border clash which left four troops dead.

The two countries have not yet resolved their border dispute in recent border talks.

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