By Puy Kea PHNOM PENH, Oct. 15 Kyodo
Fighting erupted Wednesday between Cambodian and Thai troops along a hotly disputed stretch of the two countries' border, Cambodian military officials said.
Two officials at the border told Kyodo News separately that the fighting broke out shortly before 2:30 p.m. in the disputed area near Cambodia's ancient Preah Vihear Temple, which has been the scene of tense confrontations between the two sides since mid-July. Sounds of explosions could be heard over the telephone. The fighting involves rifle firing and rocket firing by both sides, one of the officials said. Thailand on Tuesday deployed more troops and weapons to the disputed area, saying it was in response to Cambodia's beefing up of its own forces in the area.
On Oct. 3, the border standoff boiled over into a brief firefight that caused injuries on both sides. The latest fighting comes two days after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the disputed area would become a ''life-or-death battlefield zone'' if Thai soldiers who he alleged had crossed about 1,000 meters into Cambodian territory Monday morning were not withdrawn. On Tuesday, Hun Sen gave Thailand a noon deadline for it to redeploy its troops to their previous position, saying, ''Even at any cost, Cambodia will not allow Thais to stand in our land.''
Thailand, which claims the disputed 4.6-kilometer area in question as its own, has denied that its troops ever crossed into Cambodian territory. The heads of Thailand's armed forces, under Supreme Commander Gen. Songkitti Chakkabatra, issued a joint statement Tuesday saying Thai troops will not be withdrawn from the disputed border with Cambodia despite Hun Sen's ultimatum. ''The three armed forces reaffirmed that we are ready for any confrontation, both in terms of forces and weapons to protect our territorial integrity,'' it said. But the statement went on to say that ''resolving the conflicts by dialogue would be better and Thailand is ready to continue the dialogue.''