Cambodian temple is damaged by Thai army

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The Independent Online

Part of an 11th-century temple was damaged by the Thai army yesterday as it exchanged artillery and mortar fire with Cambodian troops across the disputed border between the two countries, shattering a shaky ceasefire.

The extent of the damage to the Preah Vihear Temple, a Unesco world heritage site, was not clear. There were no immediate reports of casualties as fighting continued across the darkened mountainous border for more than three hours.

The fiercest border clashes in years erupted on Friday and continued for a third straight day yesterday despite at least two ceasefires.

The clashes initially broke out in an area close to the Preah Vihear Temple, which belongs to Cambodia under a 1962 World Court ruling disputed by many Thais. "A wing of our Preah Vihear Temple has collapsed as a direct result of the Thai artillery bombardment," the government quoted a Cambodian military commander based near the temple as saying. It did not say how large the wing was.

There was no immediate comment from Thai authorities.

Preah Vihear Temple is located on the top of a 1,700ft cliff in the Dangrek Mountains, about 150 miles north of the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.

The temple has long fuelled nationalist sentiment on both sides of the border. Both sides have accused each other of instigating the latest round of fighting. Clashes on Saturday also caused minor damage to the façade of the temple, near a strip of disputed land that Thai nationalists have seized on as a domestic political issue.