Cambodia Thailand refugees 311.
(photo credit: AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodia called for UN peacekeepers to help end the fighting along its tense border with Thailand, where artillery fire echoed for a fourth day Monday near an 11th century temple classified as a World Heritage Site.
The crumbling stone temple, several hundred feet (meters) from Thailand's eastern border with Cambodia, has fueled nationalism on both sides of the disputed frontier for decades and conflict over it has sparked sporadic, brief battles in recent years. However, sustained fighting has been rare.
A one-hour clash Monday morning stopped after both sides agreed to an unofficial cease-fire. Fighting has erupted daily since Friday, leaving at least five dead and two dozen wounded.
Cambodian officials say a Thai artillery barrage Sunday collapsed part of "a wing" at the Preah Vihear temple, a UN World Heritage site, but Thai officials have dismissed that account as propaganda. The extent of damage was unknown because it remained too dangerous to approach the temple, Cambodian authorities said.
Both sides blame the other for instigating each day's clashes, which have shattered a series of cease-fire agreements.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has warned that the fighting poses a
threat to regional stability. He said the latest clash was sparked after
Thai soldiers crossed the border in search of a slain comrade, and
Cambodians opened fire to repel them.
"We need the United Nations to send forces here and create a buffer zone
to guarantee that there is no more fighting," Hun Sen said, adding that
the situation kept deteriorating and the two sides were no longer
listening to each other.
Hun Sen sent a letter to the UN Security Council on Sunday calling for
an emergency meeting to help end the fighting. Thailand's Foreign
Ministry sent its own letter to the Security Council on Monday to
formally protest the "repeated and unprovoked armed attacks by Cambodian
"We have responded with dignity and we did not invade anybody first,"
Thai army spokesman Col. Sansern Kaewkamnerd said Monday at a news
He dismissed claims that the fighting constituted "a war" but
acknowledged that a Thai soldier who "unintentionally entered" Cambodian
territory Saturday would under military rules be held as a prisoner of
Ruling out foreign involvement, Thai government spokesman Panitan
Wattanayagorn reiterated Thailand's traditional stance that the problem
should be worked out bilaterally.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was "deeply concerned" by the
fighting and urged both sides "to exercise maximum restraint," his
spokesperson said in a statement.
Singapore's Foreign Ministry voiced its concern in a statement Monday
and called for the two neighbors to negotiate for their own sake and
"the broader interests of ASEAN."
The exchange of cross-border gunfire is highly unusual among members of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.