Cambodian, Thai border troops exchange gunfire

BANGKOK, April 3, 2009 (AFP) - Gunfire broke out briefly Friday between Thai and Cambodian troops in a disputed area on the countries' common border, Thai officials said, raising tensions that erupted into a deadly clash last year.

The exchange of shots took place in the early morning after Cambodian soldiers went to investigate the spot where a Thai soldier stepped on a landmine a day earlier and lost his leg, Thai officials said.

"The brief clash happened at 7:10am when Cambodian troops came to investigate the spot where that Thai soldier stepped on a landmine yesterday," Seni Chittakasem, governor of Si Sa Ket province in Thailand said.

"There is no report of loss (of life) on the Thai side and it's ended now," he said, adding that the trouble flared one kilometre (around half a mile) into the disputed territory.

A Cambodian soldier stationed at the border said the gunfire had raised tensions between troops, but disputed that Thai troops had fired any shots.

"A group of Thai soldiers this morning entered Cambodian territory and Cambodian troops opened fire," Yeim Kheang told AFP by telephone.

"The situation is now tense... the Thai troops did not fire back," he said.

The landmine incident a day earlier had put Cambodian troops on "high alert" they said, two days after their premier Hun Sen warned Thailand that it would face fighting if its troops crossed their disputed frontier.

Tensions over the long-disputed territory flared in July last year after an 11th century temple at the border was granted United Nations world heritage status. Soldiers clashed in the area in October, leaving four troops dead.

Subsequent talks between Cambodia and Thailand have not resolved the dispute.

The border between the two countries has never been fully demarcated, in part because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia.

Source: AFP

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