>Thai-Cambodia forces exchange border fire: witness


Thai soldiers set-up artillery guns on the Thai-Cambodian border on October 15. Thai and Cambodian troops exchanged gunfire Wednesday along their border, a Cambodia army commander said, as a row over a disputed patch of land appeared to be escalating.


Cambodia soldiers stand guard next to the famed Preah Vihear temple complex near Cambodia-Thai border, Preah Vihear Province, Cambodia. Thailand put jet fighters on standby and Cambodia said its troops were on alert Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008 as war rhetoric heated up between the neighbors in a tense border dispute.

(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008;

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (Reuters) – Fighting broke out along a disputed stretch of the Thai-Cambodian border on Wednesday, a Reuters photographer at the scene said, saying he had to take cover amid rocket and small-arms fire.

Thai and Cambodian forces exchanged fire for about 10 minutes, the journalist said.

“I heard gunfire all over the place in this area,” Reuters photographer Chor Sokunthea said by telephone. “One rocket flew from Thailand over my head and landed. Now you can hear the fighting. They’ve opened fire.”

“I have to find a safe place to hide,” he said.

Thailand sent more soldiers on Tuesday to the disputed stretch of the Cambodian border near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple that both sides claim, a Thai general said, hours after a Cambodian general said Thai troops had pulled back.

On Monday, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen threatened to turn the area into a “death zone” unless the Thais retreated by midday Tuesday.

The Thai military said it was ready for war and the Foreign Ministry told Thais to “think twice” before visiting Cambodia, only fives years after a nationalist mob torched the embassy in Phnom Penh in an argument about another ancient Hindu temple.

Tensions have been high since July, when 2,000 soldiers faced off only yards apart in trenches dug into a hillside that until 10 years ago was under the control of remnants of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot’s guerrilla army.

At the heart of the dispute is 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub near the temple, which the International Court of Justice awarded to Cambodia in 1962, a ruling that has rankled in Thailand ever since.

The dispute flared in July after protesters trying to overthrow the Thai government attacked Bangkok’s backing of Phnom Penh’s bid to list the Hindu ruins as a World Heritage site.

(Writing by Bill Tarrant; Editing by Paul Tait)

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