News / Asia

Thai-Cambodia Cross-Border Shelling Intensifies

An injured Thai soldier is treated on his arrival at Kantharalak, hospital in Si Sa ket Province, Thailand Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011
An injured Thai soldier is treated on his arrival at Kantharalak, hospital in Si Sa ket Province, Thailand Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011
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William Ide

Border clashes between Thailand and Cambodia intensified Sunday as thousands of Thai residents fled villages near the disputed area of Preah Vihear. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen sent a letter to the United Nations Security Council, calling for an emergency meeting to help end the fighting.

Thai residents from three villages near the disputed border region began moving to makeshift shelters Sunday night to escape artillery fire.

Thai villagers say the fighting is the worse they have seen in years. An elderly woman, who was huddled in the back of a pick-up truck with nearly a dozen other people says she saw heavy artillery and tracer fire over her village and she had to flee.  She says it was the second time she had to evacuate her village in the three days.

Since Friday, Thai and Cambodian soldiers have used guns, tanks and rockets to bombard one another over the disputed territory that surrounds an 11th century Hindu temple.

According to a Thai Army spokesman, Sunday's fighting left about 10 soldiers wounded.  Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen says the clashes resulted in "more human casualties and damages.''

In a letter to the U.N. Security Council on Sunday, Mr. Hun Sen accused Thailand of launching what he called a "full scale armed aggression against Cambodia."  He said Thai artillery fired into the Preah Vihear temple and nearby areas.  The Cambodian government says part of the temple has collapsed as a result of the bombardment.

The Cambodian prime minister says Thai artillery shells have landed as far as 20 kilometers inside Cambodian territory. Thai authorities say they are responding to Cambodian artillery fire.

A 1962 ruling by the International Court of Justice awarded the Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia.  But the decision did not settle ownership of the land that surrounds the temple.

The dispute over the area flared up in 2008 when UNESCO declared the temple a World Heritage site.  There have been occasional minor clashes between the two armies since then.

At a rally on Saturday in Bangkok, demonstrators from the People's Alliance for Democracy movement called on Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to step down.  The protesters are demanding that the government take a tougher stand against Cambodia over the temple dispute.

The United States is urging both countries to show restraint.  The Association of South East Asian Nations, or ASEAN, says the deteriorating situation is undermining confidence and that it could affect economic recovery in the region.

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