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Page last updated at 12:42 GMT, Friday, 17 October 2008 13:42 UK

Cambodia PM plays down border row

Cambodian villagers flee Anlong Veng, in Cambodia near the border with Thailand Cambodia, following Wednesday's clash
Thousands of Cambodians have fled the area

Cambodian PM Hun Sen has played down the possibility of a full-scale war with Thailand, after the two sides exchanged fire across their border.

He said talks remained the best answer to the dispute around Preah Vihear temple, a UN World Heritage site.

Both sides have sought to ease tensions since at least two Cambodian soldiers were killed in Wednesday's crossfire.

They have agreed to a joint border patrol, but failed to reach a deal on reducing troop numbers.

"People should understand that there won't be any large-scale war taking place," Hun Sen told reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting.

"I would not call it a war. This was just a minor armed clash," he added.

He said there was no need for outsiders, such as the United Nations or the regional grouping Asean, to get involved in the dispute.

'Death zone'

The military stand-off began in July when Cambodian troops detained three Thai protesters who had entered the site illegally.

TEMPLE DISPUTE TIMELINE
1970s-1990s: Khmer Rouge guerrillas occupy site
2001-2002: Thai troops block access over water row
July 2008: Unesco lists temple as a World Heritage Site
July 2008: Thai FM quits after court rules he violated constitution for backing Cambodia's Unesco bid
July 2008: Both sides move troops to temple area
August 2008: Troops withdrawn after high-level talks
October 2008: Fighting erupts around temple area

More than 1,000 soldiers from both countries moved into the area, digging trenches into the rough terrain around the temple.

Both sides agreed in August to withdraw their personnel, but last week Cambodia claimed that Thai troops had returned, and Hun Sen threatened to turn the area into a "death zone" if they did not withdraw.

The dispute centres on 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple.

An international court awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, but land surrounding it remains the subject of rival territorial claims.

Disputes between the two countries date back centuries, when the Thai and Khmer monarchs fought each other for territory and power.

Map of disputed area




SEE ALSO
Small step in Thai-Cambodia talks
16 Oct 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Gunfight on Thai-Cambodia border
15 Oct 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Troops 'to leave border temple'
14 Aug 08 |  Asia-Pacific

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