Cambodian and Thai military officials held talks on Sunday to prevent more fighting on their borders near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple. The fighting broke out on 5 April, Friday, with 2 instances of heavy gunfire between Thai and Cambodian soldiers.
The same area was the scene of several clashes last year after the Preah Vihear temple was granted United Nations world heritage status, with four soldiers killed in a battle in October.
Both countries posted troops in the area after the United Nations approved Cambodia's application in July to have the temple listed as a World Heritage Site -- a place the United Nations says has outstanding universal value.
The temple sits atop a cliff on Cambodian soil, but has its most accessible entrance on the Thai side. The International Court of Justice awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962. However, Thailand claims that the map used by the Cambodians was drawn up during the French occupation of Cambodia, and that the area around the temple was never fully demarcated.
Subsequent talks between Cambodia and Thailand have not resolved the dispute.
In the second round of fighting that occurred in the afternoon despite talks held immediately after the first exchange of gunfire, 3 Thai soldiers died and at least 10 others were injured, said Thai army Lt. Col. Vichit Mugkarun.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen described the bursts of combat as an "incident," not a war.
Each side accused the other of firing first, in what is seen by analysts as a significant heightening in tensions. Both sides exchange gunfire from rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.
Hun Sen said Friday's fighting was triggered when Thai soldiers advanced into heavily mined territory claimed by Cambodia and ignored warnings to turn back. Thai officials denied any intrusion and said they went into the disputed area to clear explosives after a Thai soldier lost his leg when he stepped on a mine Thursday. Thai authorities said the Cambodian troops fired first.
The clashes come days before fresh talks between the two sides over the disputed territory, and just before a summit of ASEAN, of which both Cambodia and Thailand are members. The Cambodia-Thailand Joint Border Committee is expected to hold three days of talks in the Cambodian resort town of Siem Reap, starting on Sunday.
Thai army commander Gen. Anupong Paochinda said Sunday that Thailand is not planning any military response or troop redeployment following the clash.
"This has to be resolved through negotiations," he said. "Any redeployment will have to be done on both sides."
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva meanwhile said that the issue would come up when he meets his Cambodian counterpart at a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its regional partners in Thailand next week.
AFP, Cambodia, Thai border clash leaves two dead, 3 April 2009. http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5j4qrmczUw-ulEgZA9xcFNnSPy1RQ
CNN, Thai, Cambodian troops trade fire at border, 3 April 2009, http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/04/03/cambodia.thai.tensions/?iref=mpstoryview
AFP, Cambodia, Thailand in talks after border clashes, 4 April 2009, http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5j_tAssqX2iyApAu-XABJKNlF2F3w
BBC, Gunfire on Thai-Cambodian border, 3 April 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/7980535.stm