>Thais told to leave Cambodia after troops clash


BANGKOK — Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat (pictured) urged Thai nationals in Cambodia to leave as soon as possible Wednesday after a gun-battle between troops along a disputed stretch of their 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.

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.

“Cambodian and Thai troops are opening fire at each other now,” Brigadier Bun Thean told AFP from the scene.

“Our troops prevented Thai troops from entering our territory, but they started to open fire at our troops right away,” he said, adding there was “heavy gunfire” at two areas near Preah Vihear temple.

Reporters with local Thai television confirmed they witnessed both sides exchanging gunfire.

Thai government and military officials could not be reached immediately for comment.

Cambodia had earlier said that 500 Thai troops were massing near a disputed patch of land near the ancient Preah Vihear temple, while Thai television showed images of tanks heading to the area.

Tensions between the neighbours flared in July and escalated into a military confrontation when up to 1,000 Cambodian and Thai troops faced off for six weeks, although both sides agreed in August to reduce troop numbers.

Ten Cambodian soldiers stationed in the disputed border area later surrendered to Thai troops amid sporadic gunfire Wednesday, according to an AFP photographer at the scene.

An AFP photographer observed the 10 soldiers stationed at a pagoda in disputed territory near ancient Preah Vihear temple raise their hands in surrender to Thai troops, as gunfire could be heard in the area. — AFP, Reuters

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