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One dead in Thai-Cambodia border clash

  • Story Highlights
  • Official: Fighting broke out Wednesday on disputed Thai-Cambodia border
  • Area includes 11th century Preah Vihear temple
  • Temple a source of enmity between the two nations for decades
  • International Court of Justice awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962
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BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) -- An exchange of gunfire between Thai and Cambodian soldiers in a disputed border region Wednesday left one Cambodian soldier dead, the Thai military said.

Thai troops

Thai soldiers set-up artillery guns on the Thai-Cambodian border on October 15.

Two Thai soldiers and four other Cambodian soldiers were also wounded in the half-hour-long skirmish near the Preah Vihear temple, according to Thai Army Lt. Gen. Wiboonsak Neeparn.

The two countries have disagreed for months over whether some territory around the ancient temple forms part of Thailand or Cambodia.

Speaking by phone to a local television station, the army official said the shooting took place in an area where Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen issued an ultimatum Tuesday for Thai soldiers to leave.

Col. Sansern Kaewkumnerd, a Thai Army spokesman, said he did not think the fighting will spread to other areas. He said the conflict will be resolved through negotiations.

Both countries posted troops in the area after the United Nations approved Cambodia's application in July to have the 11th-century temple listed as a World Heritage Site.

The temple sits atop a cliff on Cambodian soil but has its most accessible entrance on the Thai side.

The International Court of Justice awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962. Thailand claims, however, that the 1.8 square mile (4.6 sq. km) area around it was never fully demarcated.

Thailand says the dispute arose from the fact that the Cambodian government used a map drawn during the French occupation of Cambodia -- a map that places the temple and surrounding area in Cambodian territory.

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The United Nations' decision re-ignited tensions, with some in Thailand fearing it will make it difficult for their country to lay claim to disputed land around the temple.

Opposition parties in Thailand used the issue to attack the government, which initially backed the heritage listing.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has been in power since 1985, portrayed the U.N. recognition as a national triumph in the run-up to the country's general elections.

The current flare-up began July 15, when Cambodian guards briefly detained three Thais who crossed into the area. Once they were let go, the three refused to leave the territory.

Cambodia claims Thailand sent troops to retrieve the trio and gradually built up their numbers. Thailand denies that, saying its troops are deployed in Thai territory.

A small skirmish there in early October left two Thai soldiers hurt.

A spokesman for the Royal Thai Air Force told CNN Wednesday that it has placed its entire fleet of fighter jets on stand-by.

A military transport aircraft is also ready to evacuate Thai citizens from Cambodia, but will need the permission of Cambodian authorities to cross the border.

-- CNN's Kocha Olarn contributed to this report.

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