2 Thai soldiers wounded by land mine blasts near disputed border with Cambodia


AP

BANGKOK, Thailand — Land mine explosions wounded two Thai soldiers Monday near the border with Cambodia, army officials said, three days after both sides exchanged gunfire near a disputed 11th century temple.

One of the Thai paramilitary troopers lost both legs after stepping on a mine, said Lt. Col Pichit Nakkarun. Another soldier rushed to help his colleague and triggered a second explosion that blew off one of his legs, Pichit said.

Pichit said the soldiers were in Thailand’s Sisaket province, not far from the border and near where soldiers briefly clashed Friday.

“It is unclear whether it was a land mine that has been there for a long time or whether it was newly planted in the area,” Pichit said.

Cambodian Maj. Gen. Srey Doek said the Thai soldiers had wandered about half a mile (1 kilometer) into Cambodian territory.

“They keep trespassing to our side to grab our land,” Srey Doek said. He said the mines were planted during Cambodia’s civil war in the 1970s.

The blasts occurred about a mile (1.5 kilometer) from the Preah Vihear temple, an ancient temple at the center of a territorial dispute between the Southeast Asian neighbors.

Thailand and Cambodia have long made claims on land surrounding the temple, which the World Court awarded to Cambodia in 1962. Tensions flared on July 15 after UNESCO, the U.N. cultural agency, approved Cambodia’s bid to have the temple named a World Heritage Site. Both sides deployed troops and came close to an armed clash.

Two Thai soldiers and one Cambodian were wounded Friday amid brief gunfire. Both sides claim the other fired first and blame each other for being on the wrong side of the border.