October 22, 2008
Since early July 2008, the sounds of boots shook Dangrek Mountains that has become the border line between Cambodia and Thailand since 1907. The blood was already spilling. The cause was the drawings of this border line. It all began in last July 7 when UNESCO decided to inscribe the temple of Preah Vihear on the World Heritage List. A decision contested by Thailand whose army has since had increased incursions into Cambodian territory.
What was happening suddenly between these two countries that belong to the same Indian civilization and are so close by culture and religion? It is an old rivalry that should be a worrisome because it has been simmering during a protracted course of a long history between the two countries. The decline of the Angkorian empire in the thirteenth century allowed the Siamese empire to expand at the expense of the Khmer country. Prior to the Thirteenth century the Angkorian empire covered almost all Thailand today.
It was France, while a protecting power in Cambodia,that had brought an end to this carving. In 1904, France and Siam signed a convention to settle a final border between Cambodia and Siam.
In 1907, a Franco-Siamese treaty returned back to Cambodia three provinces annexed by Siam. This deal confirms the provisions of the 1904 Convention regarding the procedures for delimitation of the border. In 1908, a joint commission Franco-Siamese established under the provisions of this treaty determines the border in the sector Dangrek and clearly indicates that the temple of Preah Vihear and the surrounding land are in Cambodia.
As long as Cambodia benefit from the protection of France, Thailand will confirm the boundary line agreed by mutual agreements. In 1925, France and Siam signed a treaty of friendship which (Article 2) states that "the High level Contracting Parties confirm the boundaries between their territories under and by virtue of the stipulations of previous agreements with the commitment for insuring mutual respect". In 1926, a Convention on the Mekong confirms Article 2 of the 1925 Convention. In 1937, a new friendship treaty incorporates the provisions of the Treaty relating to the 1925 borders. In 1946, after Thailand, ally of Japan, has occupied three Cambodian provinces, the Settlement Agreement Franco-Siamese restores the deals of 1937. The Conciliation Commission Franco Siamese considers that the clauses of the Treaty of 1907 on the border between Thailand and Cambodia should not be revised.
In 1954, while Cambodia gained its independence, Thai military forces took the Preah Vihear temple and its surroundings. In June 1962, the International Court of Justice at the request of Cambodia, makes a ruling upholding the sovereignty of Cambodia on Preah Vihear Temple and its vicinity under the established boundary line which was confirmed by successive treaties and has never been previously, the purpose of contesting from Thailand. ”The court, therefore feels bound, as a matter of treaty interpretation, to pronounce in favor of the line as mapped in the disputed area.” (Page 35 of the Reports of Judgments, Advisory Opinions and orders).The Reports of Judgments reaffirm that “Thailand is under an obligation to withdraw any military or police forces, or other guards and keepers, stationed by her at the Temple, or in its vicinity on Cambodian territory;” (Page 37 of the Reports of Judgments, Advisory Opinions and orders).
In July 1962, Thailand accepted the ruling of the International Court of Justice and did not appeal during the ten years that followed, during which it could do so. In July 1967, Mr. Thanat Khoman, Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs said: "Thailand has no territorial claims in Cambodia. The position of Thailand has always been to say that there is no dispute on the borders with Cambodia as it has consistently complied with the treaty signed with France at the time it was the protective power of Cambodia”.
In June.2000, Cambodia and Thailand signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the demarcation of the border between the two countries in respect of the signed treaties and conventions and maps established under said treaties and conventions.(Article 1c). In 2001, Cambodia officially requested the inclusion of Preah Vihear temple on the World Heritage List by UNESCO. In May 2003, Cambodia and Thailand signed a document entitled "Terms of Reference and Master Plan for the Joint Survey and Demarcation of Land Boundary between the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Kingdom of Thailand (TOR). This document is explicitly in reference to the 1904 Convention, the Treaty of 1907, maps drawn and the MOU of June 2000. Shortly after, defying the commitments in the MOU and the TOR, Thailand publishes a unilateral map of which the boundary line runs along the immediate vicinity of the Themple of Preah Vihear. This behaviour called into question the evidence in force since 1908.
On 18 June 2008, Cambodia and Thailand signed a joint statement in which Thailand supports the Cambodian request for the inscription of the temple of Preah Vihear on the World Heritage List by UNESCO and this inscription states that this is without prejudice to the demarcation work under the MOU in 2000 and TOR of 2003.
On 21 June 2008, General Prem Tinsulanonda, Privy Councilor of the King of Thailand expressed his support for Thai protesters who oppose the inscription of the temple of Preah Vihear.
On 1 July 2008 the Thai government withdrew its support for the inscription of the temple.
On July 7, 2008, the World Heritage Committee inscribed the temple of Preah Vihear on the World Heritage List. Foreign Minister of Thailand expressed his opposition, but in vain. On 15 July 2008, the Thai armed forces violate the territorial integrity of Cambodia in the area of Preah Vihear and, therefore, they violate treaties, conventions and joint documents signed by Thailand.
Since then, the Thai armed forces whose numbers and equipment by far surpass those of the Cambodian arm were increasing provocations across several points inside the border of Cambodia. The meetings between Foreign Ministers of both countries have avoided the worst so far, but nothing has settled.
Since the military coup of 2006, the 18th in 80 years of its history, Thailand is experiencing a deep crisis in which the appeal to nationalism is a classic recipe to gather a people and a deeply divided political class. Cambodia, recovering slowly from being pushed back to the stone-age thirty years ago, is an easy scapegoat for Thailand with nearly 70 million people who willingly display its contempt for this small Cambodia, five times less populated than Thailand.
The above elements are obviously known in the chancery all over the world. Some states, signatories of the Paris Agreements of 1991 that ended the Cambodian conflict, have responsibilities with respect to Cambodia’s present situation. Thailand, itself a signatory to these agreements, was like other parties, including the five permanent members of Security Council of The United Nations, has committed to respect "the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and inviolability of Cambodia. Today, Bangkok, in order to mobilize a population that has lost confidence in politicians and the military, said it is "ready for war with Cambodia."
Is not it the time to avoid the worst by implementing a creative diplomacy which the audience and participants enjoys by the length of the speech in seminars and symposia? Or, once again, the plight of the Cambodian people will be like in 1970, as in 1975, as in 1979 measured by profit and loss on the account of international relations more anxious to spare the markets rather than protect the people. ?