(AFP) – Oct 15, 2008
PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (AFP) — 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 General 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.
"They are coming near now. They are just about 50 to 60 meters (165 to 195 feet) away from the area," Bun Thean said.
No Thai officials were available to confirm any fresh deployment of troops, but Thailand's Channel Seven -- a military-run television station -- also reported Wednesday that both sides had reinforced soldiers in the area.
Tensions between the neighbours flared again this week after failed talks on Monday aimed at cooling a months-long stand off over land near Preah Vihear, a United Nations cultural heritage site which is in Cambodian territory.
On Tuesday, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen issued an ultimatum to the Thai side after he accused 84 Thai soldiers of entering one of a handful of disputed areas -- leave before midday or risk conflict.
Cambodian officials insisted that the troops did leave before the deadline, but Thailand's foreign minister said they were standing their ground.
Witnesses along the border said the situation was a little calmer on Wednesday, despite the increase in troops.
"The situation is calmer. Nothing has changed yet," Cambodian Brigadier General Yim Pim told AFP.
The spat 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 disputed area.
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