While fighting continues for a third day along the disputed border between Thailand and Cambodia (map, from bbcimg.co.uk), UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon has called on both countries to declare a ceasefire, arguing that military means could not resolve the dispute.
He also said that both sides needed to engage in “serious dialogue”.
The fighting, which happened near the disputed Preah Vihear temple, where deadly clashes erupted in February, began on Friday and have so far killed ten soldiers.
Military commanders on both sides confirmed the exchange of heavy weapons fire from the two sides on Sunday.
“The secretary-general calls on both sides to exercise maximum restraint and to take immediate measures to put in place for an effective and verifiable ceasefire,” said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky.
Indonesia also called for an immediate ceasefire. The country has been trying to broker a lasting peace deal between Thailand and Cambodia for months.
Because of the fighting thousands of villagers were evacuated from their homes on both sides of the border and were sheltering in camps.
An informal truce had been in place since February’s fighting near the 11th Century Preah Vihear temple, which is a UN World Heritage site.
Each side now blames the other for Friday’s exchange of fire near two other temples that are also a cause of dispute between the two countries. At least six soldiers – three from each side – were killed on that day.
On Saturday fighting took place in the same area, killing one Thai soldier and three Cambodians, according to officials.
The continuing tensions between the two countries come from the fact that parts of their border have never been formally demarcated. And even though in 1962 an international court awarded the Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia, both countries claim ownership of the temple’s surrounding area.