Thai, Cambodian troops clash anew

Hostilities broke out again Tuesday in the long running border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia as troops from both sides exchanged gunfire and short-range rockets.

The armed clashes entered its fifth day of sporadic fighting which has already claimed the lives of at least 13 people, even as neighboring countries step up pressure for both sides to take the diplomatic tact.

Cambodia has allegedly fired rockets after two Thai F-16 jets patrolled the area, according to Thai regional army spokesman Prawit Hukaew. He added that six Thai houses were destroyed and a Thai soldier was wounded.

Amid the bloody fighting, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is confident the situation can be prevented from getting worse. He said defense ministers from both sides are expected to hold ceasefire talks Wednesday.

Thailand’s foreign minister is also scheduled to meet with the secretary general of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) regional grouping later this week in Jakarta to seek the regional bloc’s intercession.

The Thai-Cambodia border dispute dates back to as early as 1950s following the withdrawal of French rule from Cambodia, leaving sovereignty issues over the three ancient temples of Preah Vihear, Ta Moan and Ta Krabey and the Dangrek Mountains.

Tuesday’s armed clashes were contained to the jungles near the 12th-century Ta Moan and Ta Krabey temples, which Thailand claimed as part of Surin province based on a 1947 map. But Cambodia maintained that the disputed temple belongs to its Oddar Meanchey province.

In Beijing where she is currently on official visit, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged restraint on both countries, saying she was “deeply concerned” about the situation.

“We hope that both Cambodia and Thailand will maintain calm and restraint, and resolve their problems through consultation,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei while speaking to journalists.