Thailand, Cambodia in Firefight Over Temple

Border dispute escalates as both sides accuse other of aggression
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 15, 2008 8:00 AM CDT
Thailand put jet fighters on standby and Cambodia said its troops were on alert Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008 as war rhetoric heated up between the neighbors in a tense border dispute.   (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
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(Newser) – Thai and Cambodian troops fought an hourlong battle today, leaving two Cambodian soldiers dead and several wounded by rocket fire in the most serious incident since the start of a border dispute. At issue is just 1.8 square miles of land next to a Hindu temple that an international body awarded to Cambodia. As in previous skirmishes, both sides have accused the other of aggression, Reuters reports.

The question of which country owns the temple has stirred nationalist passions for generations, but tensions flared up again this summer when anti-government Thai protesters took up the cause. Cambodia, for its part, insists that its larger neighbor is raiding its territory. This week the country's PM, a former Khmer Rouge soldier, warned he would make the contested area a "death zone" unless Thai forces withdrew.