Thai, Cambodian troops exchange fire near disputed Hindu temple

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Bangkok, Oct 3 (UNI) Thai and Cambodian troops exchanged fire this afternoon near the site of an ancient Hindu temple that has strained ties between the two Southeast Asian neighbours sharing a common cultural past.

The clash, which lasted for only a few minutes, took place near Thailand's northeastern Si Saket border province adjoining the 900-year-old Preah Vihar temple in Cambodian territory.

Reports from Si Saket said three Thai soldiers and one Cambodian soldier were injured in the incident. Cambodian troops are reported to have opened fire after a group of Thai soldiers crossed over the border.

The skirmish comes as both nations are engaged in high-level diplomatic efforts to ease tensions over the temple that were reignited in July this year following Cambodia's move to seek UNESCO world heritage status for Preah Vihar.

The dispute has become entangled with Thai domestic politics with the influential anti-government civil society People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) campaign accusing former prime minister Samak Sundaravej's government of surrendering Thai territory to Cambodia.

Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat is due to visit Cambodia this month to meet his counterpart Hun Sen.

The Preah Vihar temple is accessible only from Thai territory. Awarded to Cambodia by the International Court of Justice four decades ago, the temple continues to evoke strong nationalistic passions in both countries.

UNI XC AKJ PK KP2154

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