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Thailand-Cambodia Border Uneasy Calm After Clashes

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Thai say they have resumed discussions with Cambodia to try to establish a ceasefire in a disputed border area. Military clashes over the weekend left at least seven people dead and sent thousands of villagers fleeing the area.
Thai and Cambodian authorities say there has been no new fighting in their disputed border area for more than a day after four days of heavy shooting.

Thai officials in Si Sa Ket province say the two sides also resumed talks and have agreed to stop the fighting.

Colonel Chinnakaj Rattanajitti is a Thai military spokesman for the area.

He says they had talks and agreed to stop the shooting. To avoid [further] violence, both parties will think twice before taking any actions. Before doing anything, he says, they will consult and coordinate with supervisors at all levels.

Cambodian authorities were not immediately available to confirm any agreement.

Colonel Chinnakaj added despite what he called an oral agreement to stop fighting, there is no formal ceasefire.

Cambodian and Thai soldiers exchanged artillery fire during the weekend in territory surrounding the 900-year-old Hindu temple known as Preah Vihear in Cambodia and Prah Vihar in Thailand.

At least seven people on both sides were killed and scores injured in the worst fighting there in years. Both sides blamed the other for starting the fighting.

The border line was never settled and both Thailand and Cambodia claim the area around the temple and have soldiers stationed near it, leading to occasional shoot-outs.

Cambodian authorities say the temple, a United Nations World Heritage site, was hit by Thai shells and damaged. The exchange of artillery fire also damaged homes and schools near the border and sent thousands of villagers fleeing for safety.

At the Kantharalak district office a camp is set up for villagers who fled the fighting.

Fifty-eight-year-old Juntee Patthapin says she and her children have been here since Friday when shrapnel rained down on her village, damaging houses and setting a rubber plantation on fire.

She says her husband goes back to the village daily to feed their fish and chickens and guard their home, but she and the children will go back only when Thai authorities say it is safe.

She says it is risky to go back because they do not know when the Cambodian military is going to start shooting.

Like many of the Thai villagers she supports Thailand's claim to the disputed territory, but also wants the fighting to stop.

For now, villagers welcome the uneasy calm and express hope that it will last so they can return to normal life.

Article by Daniel Schearf, VOA News