- The Washington Times - Friday, April 3, 2009

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA (AP) - A brief gunfight broke out Friday between Thai and Cambodian soldiers near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, a clash that Thailand called “a misunderstanding” amid a tense border dispute.

Cambodia fired on some 60 Thai soldiers after they entered Cambodian territory, sparking a gun battle that lasted about 10 minutes, said Yim Kheang, a Cambodian soldier at the border. Officials from both sides said there were no injuries.

“We are on alert, and we are ready for fighting at any time,” he told The Associated Press. “If Thai soldiers come here, Cambodian soldiers will open fire without warning.”

Troops from both countries have been stationed at the border since July 2008, and two clashes near the temple last year sparked brief concerns of war.

Thailand’s Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan downplayed the clash.

“It was an accident, a misunderstanding among officials on the ground, which is common when you are closely positioned,” he told reporters in Bangkok.

Thai army chief Gen. Anupong Paochinda called it “a minor incident,” adding that Thai troops “had no intention to use force or firearms.”

The cliff-top Preah Vihear temple, near the countries’ ill-defined border, has been a source of conflict for decades between the neighbors.

On Thursday, a Thai soldier in the area lost his leg after stepping on a land mine, but Thai and Cambodian military officials disagreed over which country he was in at the time.

Cambodia and Thailand share a 500-mile (800-kilometer) land border, much of which has never been clearly demarcated because the countries refer to different maps.

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