Clashes with heavy weapons took place today between Thai and Cambodian soldiers, killing two, while bilateral tensions have recently intensified around a territorial issue.
A Thai villager was killed by artillery fire and five soldiers wounded, according to the Thai Ministry of Public Health Jurin Laksanawisit. Cambodian side, one soldier was killed, according to a military official. Four soldiers were wounded, said Chhum Socheat, spokesman for the government in Phnom Penh, adding that four Thai soldiers were captured and that the two armies had used "mortars and artillery."
"We will file a complaint with the Security Council of the UN Saturday" against Thailand, "added the spokesman of the Ministry of Defence, saying that the shells had fallen from 18 to 20 km inside Cambodian territory . Villages have been evacuated from both sides.
The U.S. today called on both countries to "exercise maximum restraint." "The United States is urging both sides to exercise maximum restraint and to take all necessary measures to reduce tension and avoid conflict," said a spokesman for American diplomacy. "We are monitoring the situation closely," the source said.
The boundary line in question
The clashes began around 9 am (Paris time) near a Khmer temple disputed between the two countries, and lasted about two hours, while the Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs had spent the day in Cambodia to meet his counterpart .
Both capitals have also blamed each other clashes, the first since April 2009. While the press has recently mentioned the troop buildup on both sides, the Thai Ministry of Defence played down the incident. "We are negotiating and I'm sure everything will be okay," assured Prawit Wongsuwon.
Several areas of the border have not been delineated, fueling dispute led to several armed incidents that have caused several deaths in 2008 and 2009. The dispute has crystallized around the Preah Vihear ruins of the eleventh century classified by Unesco in 2008 and under the sovereignty of Cambodia, according to a decision of the International Court of Justice in The Hague in 1962.
But the Thai controls the main access to the ruins and many areas have not been delineated, including an area of 4.6 square kilometers below the building.
Tensions have been revived after the arrest in late December of seven Thais who had entered into another disputed border area. Two of them, including a former leader of the nationalist and royalist "yellow shirts" have just been sentenced to jail for espionage.
A foreign observer said he was surprised by the clashes between two armies who speak regularly and try to appease the nationalist impulses of their respective political classes.