>Two dead in Thai-Cambodia fighting


Thai troops sit after surrendering at Sekha Kirisvarak pagoda near the disputed 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh October 15, 2008. Cambodia’s army captured 10 Thai soldiers on Wednesday after a battle along a disputed stretch of border near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Thailand and Cambodia have exchanged fire on the border in a clash over disputed land which left two soldiers dead and several wounded.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said two of his country’s soldiers were killed and two wounded in the clashes, which erupted sporadically for more than two hours before tapering off.

Lieutenant General Wiboonsak Neeparn, the army commander for north-eastern Thailand, said five Thai troops were wounded but later announced military talks in a bid to resolve the dispute.

Gunfights broke out in the afternoon in a number of small patches of disputed land just a few kilometres from the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, a UN World Heritage site on Cambodian territory.

Cambodia and Thailand have been sparring over the land since July and tensions mounted this week after talks on Monday failed and about 80 Thai troops entered a disputed area, enraging Cambodia.

After the fighting ended, Cambodian and Thai officials traded barbs over who had started the violence.

“The gunfire between Cambodia and Thailand was in Cambodia’s territory. Thai troops opened fire at our troops first,” Hor Namhong told reporters, before issuing a statement to the media addressing the Thai government.

“Cambodia strongly protests against these repeated and very serious armed provocations by Thailand which would lead to large scale armed hostilities between the two countries,” it said, announcing a complaint would be lodged with the UN Security Council .

Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat said the situation along the border had returned to normal but added that Bangkok would lodge a complaint with Phnom Penh.

“We are not the ones who ignited the violence,” Somchai told reporters but added that he was confident the tensions would be resolved.

Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornviwat told AFP he was ready to issue the order for all Thais to be evacuated from Cambodia if need be.

A Cambodian army official said at least 10 Thai soldiers stationed in a disputed area had surrendered – a claim denied by Wiboonsak.

Thai TV showed military trucks loaded with tanks heading toward the border and troops setting up mortars while the Thai air force spokesman said before the clashes erupted that fighter jets were on standby.

“Normally we have fighter jets on standby at various regional headquarters ready for operation within five minutes but under the current circumstances we have increased our readiness,” Group Captain Montol Suchookorn told AFP.

Colonel Sunsern Kaewkumnerd, the Thai army spokesman, earlier confirmed there had been a reinforcement of troops by both Thailand and Cambodia but declined to say how many Thai soldiers were being readied.

A meeting between both armies would be held in Thailand to discuss troop levels and weaponry, both sides confirmed.

The stand-off between the neighbours first flared in July after Preah Vihear was awarded World Heritage status by the UN cultural body UNESCO, angering some Thai nationalists who still claim ownership of the site.

The situation quickly escalated into a military confrontation, with up to 1,000 Cambodian and Thai troops facing off for six weeks, although both sides in August agreed to reduce troop numbers in the main disputed area.

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