Thai, Cambodian troops fighting spreads to environs of Preah Vihear temple

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SI SA KET, April 26 – Thai and Cambodian troops on Tuesday exchanged gunfire for the fifth consecutive day, as their fields of fire expanded to a new front near the ancient Hindu temple of Preah Vihear.

Gunfire was heard Tuesday afternoon at Phu Makua in Kantararak district of Si Sa Ket, forcing local residents to flee to safer areas as Cambodian troops attacked the Thai border with heavy artillery.

The clashes which erupted last Friday earlier were restricted to Surin’s Phanom Dongrak district. Nearly 30,000 people living along the border have been evacuated to 22 safer locations.

The new clash reportedly occurred near the ancient Preah Vihear temple. Thai soldiers were forced to retaliate to the Cambodian attack.

Meanwhile, the Thai army on Tuesday said that Thai troops had seized weapons from Cambodian soldiers during the clash near Ta Kwai temple in Phanom Dongrak district on Sunday.

The seized arms include a mortar, ten grenades and an RPG rocket launcher with four projectiles, as well as 100 cartridges of M80 machine gun ammunition.

Fighting between Thai and Cambodian soldiers erupted last Friday in Surin province, with the latest clash beginning last night and ending at 3am today. Six grenades reportedly fell into a Thai village in Phanom Dongrak district.

The Public Health Ministry reported Tuesday that ten Thai soldiers were wounded in the late night clash, raising the cumulative toll of military wounded to 42, while the death toll remains at five.