Cambodian and Thai troops clashed Monday for a fourth straight day, Phnom Penh said, as UN chief Ban Ki-moon called for "maximum restraint" in a border dispute that has claimed at least six lives.
The latest flare-up erupted during an operation by Thai soldiers to recover casualties from Sunday's heavy fighting, according to Cambodia, which accused Thailand of damaging an 11th-century temple at the centre of the hostilities.
"The firing has started for the fourth time," Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said, adding that one Cambodian soldier was killed overnight.
Thailand, however, played down the reports of fresh fighting on Monday, with a military source near the border describing the incident as a "misunderstanding", involving only small arms fire.
|Cambodian villagers flee from their homes amid military clashes near the disputed Preah Vhear temple.|
He said 13 Thai soldiers were injured on Sunday night, one seriously.
The renewed clashes shattered a brief ceasefire agreed on Saturday after the worst fighting between the two neighbours in years.
In New York, Ban's office said the UN chief was "deeply concerned" about the standoff.
"The secretary-general appeals to both sides to put in place an effective arrangement for cessation of hostilities and to exercise maximum restraint," it said.
Hun Sen has urged the United Nations Security Council to hold an urgent meeting about what he described as "Thailand's aggression", warning that regional stability was at risk.
Cambodia said Sunday that the ancient Preah Vihear temple, which is surrounded by disputed territory, was damaged by Thai artillery fire, with one wing of the building "collapsed".
Ties between the neighbours have been strained since Preah Vihear was granted UN World Heritage status in July 2008. Thailand and Cambodia have each accused the other of starting the ongoing clashes.
"Thailand does not invade any country. We protect our sovereignty," Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban told reporters.
"The army has reaffirmed that retaliation was conducted carefully and avoided the temple," he said.
Thousands of people fled their homes as villages were evacuated on both sides of the frontier after the fighting first erupted on Friday, and more people fled to safety as the fighting continued over the weekend.
About 15,000 people spent the night at 38 temporary shelters and 23 schools near the border were told to close from Monday to Wednesday, according to Somsak Suwansujarit, governor of Thailand's eastern border province Si Sa Ket.
Observers say the temple dispute has been used as a rallying point to stir nationalist sentiment in Thailand and Cambodia.
The World Court ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear itself belonged to Cambodia, although its main entrance lies in Thailand and the 4.6-square-kilometre (1.8-square-mile) area around the temple is claimed by both sides.
Ban's statement did not address the request for an urgent meeting of the Security Council, but ended: "The United Nations remains at their disposal to assist in these peaceful efforts."
Cambodia said two of its soldiers and one civilian were killed on Friday, while Thailand said a villager on its side of the border also died. A Thai soldier was killed in a brief resumption of hostilities on Saturday.
The media in both countries have said the toll could be much higher, however.
Tensions have flared in recent weeks in the wake of the arrest of seven Thai nationals for illegal entry into Cambodia in late December.
Two of them were sentenced to lengthy jail terms for spying, in a case that has caused outrage among the nationalist Thais, who have held protests in Bangkok calling for Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's resignation.
The foreign minister of Indonesia -- the current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations -- was expected in Cambodia on Monday but Thailand has dismissed intervention by the regional bloc as "unnecessary".