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Page last updated at 11:14 GMT, Saturday, 4 April 2009 12:14 UK

Cambodia leader talks down clash

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, left, shakes hands with his soldiers in Kampot province, Cambodia, 4 April 2009
Hun Sen said he saw the fighting as incidents between neighbours, not war

Cambodia's prime minister has said that he does not wish to see border clashes between Thai and Cambodian troops escalate into a more serious conflict.

Hun Sen said no Cambodian soldiers had been injured in exchanges of fire on Friday that he regarded as incidents between neighbours, not a war.

Thai authorities said at least two Thai soldiers died and seven were wounded.

The disputed area, which surrounds an ancient temple, has long been a source of tension between the two countries.

An international court awarded Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia in 1962, but a 5-sq-km (1.9-sq-mile) patch of land surrounding it remains the subject of rival territorial claims.

"There was brief fighting, but the fighting was like neighbours who live close to each other and always have disputes," Hun Sen said of Friday's violence.

"Today they have a dispute, then they soothe things and talk to each other."

Simmering tensions

The neighbours are due to hold further border talks from Sunday in the Cambodian resort town of Siem Reap.

TEMPLE DISPUTE TIMELINE
Map of Cambodia and Thailand
1962: International court awards temple to Cambodia; surrounding land remains undesignated
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 or backing Cambodia's Unesco bid
July 2008: Both sides move troops to temple area
Oct 2008: Two Cambodian troops die as soldiers exchange fire

Each side accused the other of firing first in Friday's two exchanges of rocket and gunfire, in what is seen by analysts as a significant heightening in tensions.

The fighting appeared to have started after a Thai patrol visited the site where a Thai soldier was injured after stepping on a landmine on Thursday.

Nine Thai soldiers are reported to have been injured in the exchange, three of them seriously.

Thailand and Cambodia share a border that runs for nearly 800km (500 miles), much of it heavily mined.

Soldiers from the two countries have been stationed in the area around Preah Vihear since tensions increased in July last year, after Cambodia's successful bid to have the temple listed as a World Heritage site.

Two Cambodian soldiers were killed there in October in a gun battle. Last week, Cambodia accused Thai troops of crossing over briefly into its territory.



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