SAMRONG, Cambodia-Heavy fighting erupted again Saturday on the Thai-Cambodia border, with another soldier reported dead a day after the bloodiest clash since a UN appeal two months ago for a ceasefire.
The two neighbours have fought a series of deadly gunbattles in recent years in disputed jungle near ancient temples along the frontier, which has never been fully demarcated, partly because it is littered with landmines.
One Thai soldier died in Saturday's fighting and four were slightly injured, said a Thai military source who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to disclose the information. The army declined to confirm.
Thousands of villagers have evacuated from nearby areas on both sides following the latest bloodshed, which left three soldiers on each side dead on Friday and more than a dozen wounded. “Most of the people in my village have fled their homes because many Thai artillery shells landed nearby,” 29-year-old farmer Has Pov told AFP at a pagoda complex where he took refugee with his wife and two children in the Cambodian town of Samrong about 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the fighting.
“I'm really scared by the shelling,” he added.
The Cambodian defence ministry accused Thailand of invading its territory “using ground troops and many types of artillery” and said its civilians were in danger.
As usual, the two countries accused each other of starting the latest clash, which appeared to have abated after several hours Saturday. “All of sudden they fired at us,” Thai Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwon told AFP.
“It could be that they wanted to internationalise the situation to attract a third country (to intervene). We do not want to fight but have to retaliate when they fire at us,” he said, calling for the resumption of bilateral talks to resolve the territorial dispute.
“We have to put pressure on them to go back to the meeting table,” he said.
The fighting resumed at about 6 am (2300 GMT Friday) with rifle fire and shelling in the same area as Friday's deadly standoff, according to spokesmen on both sides.
It is the first serious outbreak of hostilities since February when 10 people were killed in clashes near the 900-year-old Hindu temple Preah Vihear, prompting UN Security Council members to call for a lasting ceasefire.
Phnom Penh has called for outside mediation to help end the standoff, but Thailand opposes third-party intervention.
The two countries agreed in late February to allow Indonesian observers in the area near Preah Vihear, but the Thai military has since said they are not welcome and they have yet to be deployed.
The latest standoff, which saw more than six hours of fighting on Friday, took place near a different group of temples over 100 kilometres away from Preah Vihear.
Indonesia, which holds the rotating chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regional bloc, has called for an immediate end to the violence.“Indonesia, as current chair of ASEAN, strongly calls for the immediate cessation of hostilities between Cambodia and Thailand,” Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said in a statement on Friday.
Vietnam urged the two countries to “exercise maximum restraint.”Ties between the neighbours have been strained since Preah Vihear -- the most celebrated example of ancient Khmer architecture outside Cambodia's Angkor -- was granted UN World Heritage status in July 2008.
The World Court ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia, but both countries claim ownership of a 4.6 square kilometre (1.8 square mile) surrounding area.