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Tensions erupt as Thailand, Cambodia exchange gunfire at disputed border temple

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Chor Sokunthea/Reuters

(Read caption) General view of the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple, a world heritage site, during sunrise in Preah Vihear province, 337 miles north of Phnom Penh in this March 13, 2009 file photo. Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged gunfire in a two-hour border clash on Friday, the latest in an ancient feud over land surrounding the temple.

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Cambodia and Thailand exchanged gunfire today on their contested border after months of escalating rhetoric boiled over. The disputed patch of land – just 1.8 square miles – surrounds a 900-year-old Khmer temple recently designated a World Heritage Site, although in the past three years it has become less of a tourist destination than a hot plate for nationalist sentiments.

Witnesses said Thai troops at 3:10 pm local time attacked a nearby Buddhist pagoda claimed by Cambodia, according to the BBC. Cambodia's government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith told the Associated Press that Cambodian troops fired warning shots to stop Thai troops from crossing into the territory and that Thai soldiers returned with fire. Two or three Thai soldiers were wounded in the Friday afternoon exchange, a Thai military source told the Bangkok Post.

Reuters reported that Thailand's Army chief says the shoot-out was a "misunderstanding" and military officials were in contact.

Troops and armored vehicles have clustered on the border throughout the week, according to the BBC.

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