(Reuters) - Clashes broke out between Thai and Cambodian troops on Friday along a disputed stretch of border, breaching a shaky ceasefire agreed between in February following the worst fighting in almost two decades.
Hundreds of villagers on either side of the border were evacuated to safe areas after troops exchanged gunfire, artillery and grenades.
Following are facts about the dispute between the two ancient foes:
— Both sides have maintained a heavy military presence on either side of the border since the February 4-7 fighting that killed three Thais and eight Cambodians and wounded scores of troops and civilians on either side.
— Cambodia sought to internationalize the issue, sending its Foreign Minister to the U.N. Security Council in New York to seek a resolution against Thai “aggression.” The U.N. urged the Southeast Asian grouping, ASEAN, to broker peace talks.
— Cambodia asked ASEAN to send observers to monitor the fragile ceasefire. Thailand — in particular its military — has resisted the move and says the problem should be settled bilaterally without outside involvement.
— The main source of contention is the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, officially part of Cambodia since a 1962 World Court ruling. Thais call it Khao Phra Viharn and have strenuously rejected Cambodia’s efforts to seek a listing of the temple as a United Nations world heritage site. Thailand says the listing should not go ahead until the 4.6 sq km (2-sq-mile) of land surrounding the temple has been properly demarcated.
— Cambodia’s bid in 2009 to list the ruins sparked a flare-up in tensions that led to deaths of one Thai and three Cambodian soldiers died in a border firefight.
— The temple has stirred nationalist passions on both sides for generations. In the run-up to the 1962 World Court ruling, Thailand’s military government organized a fundraiser in which every citizen donated 1 baht to pay for Bangkok’s legal team at The Hague. More recently, ultra-nationalists in Thailand have demanded the resignation of the current and previous Thai governments, accusing them of being weak on the border issue and of losing sovereignty.
Compiled by Martin Petty; Editing by Jason Szep and Jonathan Thatcher