Thai and Cambodian troops traded gunfire and artillery shells on Friday, leaving six dead in a new clash that shattered a two-month lull in tensions along their disputed border. It was the first serious outbreak of hostilities since fighting in February near the 900-year-old Hindu temple Preah Vihear left at least 10 dead and prompted a UN appeal for a lasting ceasefire. Three Cambodian and three Thai soldiers were killed in Friday’s fighting near a different group of temples over 100 kilometres away. More than a dozen others were wounded, including three Thai troops who were said to be in critical condition.
Indonesia, current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), called for an immediate end to the violence. The two sides blamed each other for the clash which broke out in the early morning and lasted for several hours, while thousands of villagers were evacuated on the Thai side.
“Cambodian soldiers fired with assault rifles at Thailand first and now they started to shell us with artillery and we took appropriate retaliation,” Thai Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwon told AFP. “I think Cambodia wanted to take over temples on the border,” he said. Cambodia accused Thai troops of entering 0.4 kilometres (0.25 miles) into its territory. “The Thai troops marched directly towards Cambodian troop positions stationed at Cambodia’s Ta Krabei temple and launched unprovoked attacks,” said government spokesman Phay Siphan.