Thailand and Cambodia exchanged gunfire along their border on Friday, with each side blaming the other for firing the first salvo. Thailand said three of its soldiers were killed, while Cambodia spoke of unspecified casualties on its side. Bangkok said many Thai soldiers were also injured in the “unprovoked firing”.
The new flare-up was widely seen as a fresh reminder of the long-simmering tensions between the two countries over their competing claims to a piece of territory near the Preah Vihear temple. The International Court of Justice had awarded the Hindu temple to Cambodia in 1962.
The current round of tensions is often traced to the fact that the temple was declared a world heritage site a few years ago. However, both countries indicated that Friday's hostilities occurred near a different temple site, with Phnom Penh informing the United Nations Security Council that Thai troops directed artillery fire towards two temples located deep inside the Cambodian territory.
In Bangkok's version, some Cambodian soldiers were first found to have intruded into Thai territory and started building a bunker. Upon this being noticed, Cambodian troops opened fire, it was said.
Disputing the Thai version, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong wrote to Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa as well, complaining about Thailand's “large-scale attack.” Thailand suggested bilateral talks with Cambodia to resolve the tensions. But Phnom Penh asked for a mediated settlement, arguing that Bangkok's proposal was “a pretext for the use of [Thailand's] larger and materially more sophisticated armed forces against Cambodia”. Already, an earlier idea of stationing Indonesian military observers along the Thai-Cambodian border did not take off.