Thailand, Cambodia clash again at disputed border

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Thailand accused Cambodia of refusing to negotiate to resolve a border dispute that led to the fourth straight day of fierce clashes Monday, as Phnom Penh said that only U.N. peacekeepers can stop the fighting near an 11th century temple.

Cambodia says the crumbling stone temple — classified as a World Heritage site — has been heavily damaged during several bursts of artillery fire over four days. The extent of the damage could not be confirmed.

The exchange of cross-border fire is highly unusual among members of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and has raised tensions in a region known for its stability.

Preah Vihear temple — which is in northern Cambodia, several hundred feet from the border with Thailand — has fueled nationalism in both countries for decades and conflict over it has sparked sporadic, brief battles in recent years. Repeated clashes over several days like this month’s have been rare, however.

A one-hour clash Monday morning stopped after both sides agreed to an unofficial cease-fire. Fighting has erupted daily since Friday, leaving at least seven dead and dozens wounded.

In 1962, the World Court determined that the Preah Vihear temple belonged to Cambodia. Thai nationalists have never accepted that ruling, and land around the temple remains in dispute.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was “deeply concerned” by the fighting and urged both sides “to exercise maximum restraint,” his spokesman said in a statement.

Built between the 9th and 11th centuries, Preah Vihear is dedicated to the Hindu diety Shiva.

It is revered partly for having one of the most stunning locations of all the temples constructed during the Khmer empire — the most famous of which is Angkor Wat.

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