Thai, Cambodian troops clash again on disputed border

Cambodian Defense Ministry says ongoing fighting more intense than previous clashes in which at least seven were killed.

Thai Cambodian Clashes 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Thai Cambodian Clashes 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
PHNOM PENH - Thai and Cambodian troops clashed again on Saturday on their disputed border, Cambodian officials said, a day after fighting in the area killed at least four Thai paramilitary troops and three Cambodian soldiers.
Both sides have evacuated thousands of villagers and accused each other of firing first in the thick, disputed jungle around Ta Moan and Ta Krabei temples in the northeastern Thai province of Surin, about 150 km (93 miles) west of the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple, which saw a deadly stand-off in February.
Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan said the latest fighting began before dawn on Saturday and had not stopped. Cambodian Defense Ministry spokesman Chhum Sucheat said the clashes are more intense than Friday's fighting.
He accused Thailand of operating "spy planes" in the area and firing at Cambodian troops with heavy artillery.
The fighting is the most severe since three Thais and eight Cambodians were killed and dozens of people wounded over Feb. 4-7 in the bloodiest border clashes in nearly two decades.
As part of a ceasefire deal, Thailand and Cambodia agreed on Feb. 22 to allow unarmed military observers from Indonesia to be posted along their border.
But that arrangement -- brokered by a meeting of Association for South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers in Jakarta -- has yet to be put in place. Thailand said international observers were not required, insisting the two countries should resolve the issue bilaterally.
Thailand and Cambodia have been locked in a standoff since July 2008, when Preah Vihear was granted UNESCO World Heritage status, which Thailand opposed on the grounds that the land around the temple had never been demarcated.
An international court awarded the temple to Cambodia 49 years ago but both countries lay claim to a 4.6 sq km (1.8 sq mile) patch of land around it.
The temple, known as Preah Vihear in Cambodia and Khao Phra Viharn in Thailand, sits on land that forms a natural border and has been a source of tension for generations.