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September 20, 2017

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Thailand, Cambodia troops face off again

PHNOM PENH -- Thai and Cambodian soldiers faced each other near a 900-year-old Hindu temple on their disputed border on Wednesday, but both sides pledged to avoid a repeat of last year's armed clashes.

Tensions rose when 100 Thai troops crossed into a disputed area near the Preah Vihear temple and were stopped by Cambodian soldiers, Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan said.

"We are trying to push the Thais back to their border through negotiation. We do not want violence again," he said, referring to a firefight that killed 4 soldiers last October.

Thailand's military commander in the area said the troop movements were routine.

"Both sides move their troops from time to time. We inform our Cambodian friends of our movements and vice versa," Major General Kanok NetraKaveysana told Reuters.

The border had been quiet for months while the Southeast Asian neighbours sought to jointly demarcate the jungle-clad area where one Thai and three Cambodian soldiers died in last year's exchange of rifle and rocket fire.

Cambodia's deputy military commander in chief, General Kun Kim, said the Thais had only entered the disputed area and had not crossed into Cambodian territory.

"We would have shot the Thai soldiers if they had crossed into our land," he told Reuters by telephone from the border.

Preah Vihear, or Khao Phra Viharn as it is known in Thailand, sits on an escarpment that forms the natural border between the two countries and has been a source of tension for generations.

The International Court of Justice awarded it to Cambodia in 1962, but the ruling did not determine the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the ruins, leaving considerable scope for disagreement.

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