>Gunfire at the border

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Thai soldiers set-up heavy artillery on the Thai-Cambodian border. Fighting erupted on the Thai-Cambodia border as a row over a disputed patch of land near the ancient Preah Vihear temple boiled over.

(AFP/Str)

BangkokPost.com

Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat urged Thai nationals in Cambodia to leave for home immediately after a Wednesday afternoon military battle along the disputed border.

“Thai businessmen who have no need to be in Cambodia now, please rush back to Thailand,” Sompong told reporters.

“We have our evacuation plan ready,” he added.

In the Northeast, officials told residents of the border to be ready to move out quickly in case hostilities resume and escalate.

Thai and Cambodian troops reportedly exchanged gun fire for about 10 minutes at the border of Kantalak district, Si Sa Ket province at around 2.30pm.

The incident reportedly occurred three kilometres from Phreah Vihear temple, and at the site of an Oct 3 clash which left two Thai soldiers and one Cambodian wounded. Thailand issued an official protest to the Cambodian government over that alleged border incursion.

Cambodia’s Preah Vihear governor Prieb Tan claimed that Thailand started shooting at the Cambodian army first. Thai army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd, said only that the army was verifying information and would hold a press conference later on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Col Sansern reiterated that Thailand would not shoot first, but warned that Thai troops were ready if Cambodian forces encroach into Thailand. The Thai army is ready to confront any incident to protect the country’s sovereignty, he said.

Meanwhile, Thailand put air force fighter jets and C-130 transport planes on alert. The C-130s have been used in a previous operation to bring Thais back home from Phnom Penh.

“Normally we have fighter jets on stand-by at various regional headquarters ready for operation within five minutes, but under the current circumstances we have increased our readiness,” Grp Capt Montol Suchookorn was quoted by the AFP news agency.

“I do hope the use of force is the last resort,”

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