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Thailand, Cambodia Clash Over Temple; 5 Dead

Preah Vihear temple Cambodia
A Cambodian soldier stands guard at the Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province, 500kms north of Phnom Penh, near the disputed border with Thailand, on February 6, 2010. TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP/Getty Images

Four days of artillery, rocket and small arms fire has left five people dead so far in the continued clash between Cambodia and Thailand over the disputed border region around the Preah Vihear Temple.

As a result, Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen has called for a U.N. buffer zone around the 11th-century temple.

Thus far, the clashes have killed two soldiers and a civilian from Cambodia, one Thai soldier and a Thai civilian - though the two countries' media have reported differing casualty figures, reports the BBC.

Additionally, the BBC reports that the Cambodian government blames Thai bombardment for damaging a wing of the ancient temple, but Thai officials have reportedly rejected the claim.

The Preah Vihear Temple is a little more than 300 miles north of Phnom Penh, and is described by UNESCO as a building dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva that has "a unique architectural complex of a series of sanctuaries linked by a system of pavements and staircases on an 800 metre long axis. (The temple) is an outstanding masterpiece of Khmer architecture."

The current dispute over the temple revolves around which country the building sits in.

UNESCO has claimed since 2008 that it is in Cambodia, but a 100-year-old French colonial map, court rulings, and testy domestic politics have fueled the two countries' differences and caused violent clashes several times, the New York Times reports.

The current fighting is the most sustained engagement between the two nations, the Times reports. Both sides have accused the other of starting it, but only Cambodia is seeking UN intervention.

The BBC claims that the most recent tension began last week as the result of a Cambodian court sentencing two members of a Thai nationalist movement to up to eight years in prison after finding them guilty of espionage for crossing into the disputed region. The move enraged Thai nationalists.