Bangkok keeps claiming to own the thin slivers of border land near the stone rubble of an 11th-century Hindu temple built by Cambodians when their Khmer kingdom stretched across much of present-day Thailand.
But the crux of the matter is that Cambodia is using the map officially recognized by the ICJ used in its ruling in 1962 while Thailand uses a map fabricated by herself to suit her own agenda, whatever that is.
The cross-border fighting damaged the Preah Vihear temple, which was part of an ancient network of scattered Hindu shrines when Cambodia‘s nearby Angkor Watt complex served as a center of political and spiritual power more than 900 years ago.
Preah Vihear also occupies a strategic military position because it is on a high cliff overlooking northern Cambodia‘s flatlands 1,722 feet below.
If Thai forces can dominate Preah Vihear or its surrounding territory on Thailand‘s eastern border, they would have a high-ground position against Cambodia, making both sides wary of each other’s military forces close to the Dangrek Mountains’ cliff side zone.
“Thailand is gravely concerned about the use the temple of [Preah Vihear] by Cambodia for military purposes,” Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva wrote to the U.N. Security Council on Monday.
So, what does Thailand and Abihisit expect? The Cambodian soldiers to turn and walk away to open the path for the invading Thai army to occupy the temple, thus soiling Cambodian sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence?
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has designated the Temple as a World Heritage Site. Both countries want to profit from the growing number of tourists visiting the ruins and stopping at restaurants, shops, hotels and other facilities during their travels.
Thailand had to a very large extent, profited from this when the Khmer Rouge were in control of the Temple, having good roads to enable Thais to visit the temple and at the same time use it as a supply route to the Khmer Rouge.
Now the tables have turned. It is in Cambodia’s control. Rightly so as the ICJ has rightly ruled it belongs to Cambodia.
Why is Thailand afraid to go for third party mediation? What has it got to lose? What has it got to hide? Thailand and Cambodia are in conflict and thus it seems normal, for the 2 warring parties to seek outside to help solve the problem.
In fact, Cambodia’s Premier Hun Sen, has for years now, been trying to get the UN involved to help solve the problem. In this latest clashes, again PM Hun Sen asked the UN to mediate, for the UN Security Council to send in peace keeping forces, for ASEAN to get involved and help mediate a solution-and even the EU to send in peace keeping troops.
The Thais have always refused - opting for the problem to be solved between Thailand and Cambodia.
The question to ask is why?
The most logical answer is that Thailand is a much larger country than Cambodia, geographically economically, militarily, and of course a much bigger population.
By bringing in such body as the UN or ASEAN-that takes away Thailand’s advantage - and place the mediation and negotiation in the hands of a body like the UN or ASEAN - which stands for equitable and on the same level solution seeking.
Make no mistake also, Thailand is being ruled by the royalist, elite and military rulers - with the slogan “The Good can do no wrong” and that means the royalist, elite and military can do no wrong while everyone else below is nothing much but second-class citizens and inferior people.
And here is where Cambodia could also suffer from. The above may answer why the Thai have rejected international mediation, but the fact is that there is another question and that is “what are they hiding?”
Take today’s revelations in the Thai press and also on most Thai TV stations - quoting a source from the Thai security apparatus-that says PM Hun Sen’s son is in command of the conflict with Thailand and wants to “Show-Off” his power by staging the aggressive moves on Thailand to his father, Hun Sen to see and appreciate.
Not a single Thai press dares to ask just a simple question, and that is, if the Thai security apparatus is right - why would PM Hun Sen, be asking for UN and EU peace keeping forces on its border with Thailand?
The answer is that it is the royalist, elite and military rulers of Thailand that are the “Aggressor” against Cambodia.
The lie, by the royalist, elite and military rulers of Thailand is that the Cambodians are the aggressor.
It is not only the Thais themselves who are living in a society where the class system reign, but in fact, the royalist, elite and military rulers see the Cambodians as nothing much but slave labor to Thailand.
The fact is, as most who are informed about Thailand knows already - there is no “Equality or Justice” in Thailand. The fact is the Thai Government has and is being held hostage by vested ultra nationalists like the PAD And that is the root of the problem between Thailand and Cambodia -meaning- the royalist, elite and military do not know how to offer justice and equality to the Cambodians.
Thailand has also upped the ante yet again by using cluster ammunitions, something which has been banned in the civilized world, fabricated news that scores of Cambodians were killed when they themselves have suffered a huge losses and heavy casualities.
Why did Thailand also resort to unconventional artillery? Is it because it could not defend its lower ground from the well placed artillery and rockets of the Cambodians?
Why would not Thailand agree to a 3rd party mediation and United Nations Military Observers to provide security for UNESCO officials to inspect and assess the damages that Thai artillery had inflicted on the temple?
Why would Thailand want to hold UNESCO and the WHC Hostage by threatening to withdraw from this world body? All of these questions are perplexing and Thailand must provide educated responses to convince the world that it has nothing to hide!
Would Thailand agree to go back to the ICJ for a ruling on the “so called” disputed area? Is Thailand afraid of ending up in the losing end again? After all, it has no cultural heritage. It was adapted after being stolen from the Khmer empire.
Would Thailand accept the ICJ’s ruling again if it ever agreed to a joint hearing, or listen to the international community? If indeed Cambodia is the aggressor, as to what Thailand claims, it would be the biggest joke of the ASEAN region.
This is simply because the whole world knows that Cambodian soldiers have heart and not the kind of military hardware which Thailand possesses.
The Thai approval at this tense moment in the relation between Thailand and Cambodia of a US$2 billion new mechanize division in the Isan region that borders Cambodia - sends one signal only and that Thailand is determined to take an aggressive posture against Cambodia.
Thailand is currently in a grip of an internal crisis and many have speculated that this bout of Nationalism hype in Thailand with several former Thai military generals also calling for war with Cambodia - is nothing much more than a ploy to build up Nationalism as a way to kill-off a population increasingly keen on democracy, justice and liberty.
Cambodia economy meanwhile is booming - where the population is small, but the natural resources are significant, with venture capital now even heading into Cambodia. Vietnam is supplementing much of the Thai-Cambodian trade and with Laos - have joined in a sub-ASEAN triangle development.
Why doesn’t Thailand join Cambodia in inviting the international community to mediate and resolve once and for all, the decades old dispute which should not been in a dispute in the first place?
Is it afraid of losing face, losing credibility and be shown to be the big bully of a smaller neighbor?
This piece has a lot of whys, simply because these are pertinent questions to be asked and the solutions proposed by Cambodia is clear and evident. Only the Thais’ foolish bravado and brinkmanship is blinding them of this reality!
(by Tim Nahomeet, Cambodian Political Analyst)