PHNOM PENH (AFP) — At least three soldiers were injured when Cambodian and Thai troops exchanged gunfire Friday at the countries’ disputed border near an ancient temple, Cambodian and Thai officials said.
The governor of Thailand’s Si Sa Ket border province said the incident, which lasted less than three minutes, left two Thai soldiers injured.
“It happened around 3:45 pm (0845 GMT) in the disputed area and lasted for two to three minutes,” Seni Chittakasem told AFP.
“Two of our troops were slightly wounded, and I heard three soldiers on the Cambodian side were wounded. The situation has returned to normal now,” he said.
(Khmerization: BBC Radio reported that one Cambodian soldier and 4 Thai soldiers were injured).
Cambodian officials said only one of their soldiers was hurt. They said the incident took place after more than a dozen Thai soldiers crossed into disputed territory near Preah Vihear temple.
“There was a clash but we don’t know how many Thai soldiers got injured. On the Cambodian side, one soldier was injured in his left hand,” said Hang Soth, director general of the Preah Vihear authority, the body tasked with conservation of the ancient Khmer site.
The Thai troops were stopped and turned back by Cambodian soldiers, said a Cambodian border police official on condition of anonymity.
Thai soldiers opened fire with M-79 rockets and M-16 assault rifles after re-entering their territory, the police official said.
Cambodian troops responded by shooting a single B-40 rocket and then opening fire with their AK-47 rifles, the official added.
A Cambodian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, later said a letter of complaint was being drafted to be sent to the Thai government.
The incident comes as both countries attempt progress in talks to resolve the decades-long border dispute. New Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat is scheduled to visit Cambodia on October 13 to meet with his counterpart Hun Sen.
Much of the border remains in dispute, and the slow pace of clearing old landmines from the area has delayed its demarcation.
Tensions flared in July after the ancient Khmer temple of Preah Vihear was awarded world heritage status by the UN cultural body UNESCO, angering nationalists in Thailand who still claim ownership of the site.
Those tensions turned into a military standoff, in which up to 1,000 Cambodian and Thai troops faced off for six weeks.
Both sides agreed to pull back in mid-August, leaving only 20 troops from each side stationed at a small pagoda in the border area, while 40 Cambodian and Thai solders remain nearby.
Talks to resolve the dispute were postponed amid political turmoil in Thailand, and both countries swapped accusations of violating each other’s territory.
However, the two sides held talks about the border dispute last week on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the temple belongs to Cambodia, but surrounding land remains in dispute.