Thai, Cambodian soldiers in deadly border clash

April 23, 2011 - 0:0

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thai and Cambodian soldiers fought with rocket-propelled grenades and guns on their disputed border on Friday in a dawn clash that killed two Thai soldiers and wounded seven in the first major flare-up since a shaky ceasefire in February.

Both sides evacuated villagers and accused each other of firing first in the thick, disputed jungle around Ta Moan and Ta Krabei temples in the northeastern Thai province of Surin, about 150 km (93 miles) southwest of the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple, which saw a deadly stand-off in February.
“Cambodia started attacking our temporary base with artillery fire and we responded to defend ourselves,” said Lt. General Thawatchai Samutsakorn of the Thai army. “Tensions have eased for now but both sides are holding position.”
Two Thai paramilitary rangers were killed and seven wounded, said Thai army spokeswoman Sirichan Ngathong, adding that fighting began after Cambodian troops altered a bunker in the area in violation of a ceasefire pact.
“When warned, Cambodian troops stepped closer and started firing,” she said.
Cambodia suffered fatalities but it was unclear how many, Cambodian defense ministry spokesman Lt. General Chhum Socheat said. He said troops responded to Thai fire with rocket-propelled grenades.
A witness in one Thai village said occasional gun shots and shelling could still be heard although the heaviest fighting had stopped. The clash began around dawn and lasted about three hours, a Cambodian defense ministry spokesman said.
As a precaution, the Thai government evacuated about 7,500 villagers from the area. Cambodian authorities evacuated about 200 families, according to local officials.
The fighting is the most severe since three Thais and eight Cambodians were killed and dozens of people wounded over February 4-7 in the bloodiest fighting in nearly two decades.