A week before deadly fighting erupted in four consecutive days from 04th to 7th February 2011 between Cambodia and Thailand by which Abhisit, Prime Minister of Thailand is widely known as a mastermind who ordered a military exercise at the border close to the Temple of Preah Vihear. A few days later, Abhisit demanded Cambodia to remove its national flag from the KEO SIKHA KIRI SVARA pagoda. It is crystal clear that Abhisit prepared a well premeditated plan to wage a war against Cambodia aimed at occupying the vicinity of the Temple of Preah Vihear or even to destroy the Temple as soon as possible prior to the 35th Session of WHC which will be held in Bahrain in June 2011. The real war started once the Thai armed forces stormed into the area belonging de jure and de facto to Cambodia. Heavy artilleries and cluster munition were fired by Thai armed forces at the Temple of Preah Vihear and other areas adjacent to the temple, which inflicted serious damages.
It is not important to raise that who fights first and who fights later, but the most important factor related to the deadly fighting is that who creates the causes leading to a real war between the two countries? Why did the Thai armed forces fire artillery at the Temple of Preah Vihear as they are well aware that the Temple is the world heritage site which must be protected and preserved as guaranteed by the Hague Convention of 1954?
In the eyes of the national and international public opinion it is fully aware that some of the causes are firstly, Thailand used its mysterious, unilateral and internationally unrecognized map to keep claiming the area adjacent to the Temple of Preah Vihear, which grossly violated the 1962 ICJ judgment. Secondly, Abhisit ordered a military exercise close to the border without giving any notification to Cambodia in its attempts to occupy the abovementioned area or even to destroy the Temple as soon as possible following the PAD’s pressure on Abhisit.
In 2008, Democrat was the opposition party, by which Abhisit provoked the PAD to protest against the listing of the Temple of Preah Vihear in the world heritage list which brought in the Thai aggression into the sovereign Cambodian territory in the area around the Temple on 15 July 2008. With full support of the PAD, Abhisit promised to retake the Temple of Preah Vihear to Thailand, failed in its efforts to thwart inscription of the Temple of Preah Vihear, failed in its efforts to have joint Management Plan, and later failed in its efforts to derail the Management Plan during the 34th Session of WHC held in Brasilia of Brazil in 2010.
Now Abhisit and Kasit are holding Cambodia hostage in its internal political conflict to divert attention from Bangkok to Phnom Penh, particularly, to push the Democrat winning in the upcoming elections. The real causes of the dispute stem from Thailand’s usage of its mysterious, unilateral and internationally unrecognized map. So far as we learned, it is only recognized by Thailand itself, to keep claiming the area adjacent to the Temple.
In 1962, the ICJ used ANNEX I Map as the basis to rule that the Temple of Preah Vihear and its vicinity are situated in the territory under the Cambodian sovereignty. In its reasoning, ICJ clearly demonstrated the legal validity of frontier line which was drawn on the ANNEX I Map by the French-Siamese Joint Commission and accepted by both parties in 1908. Therefore, there is no doubt that the pagoda, which is situated approximately 300 meters from the Temple, and 700 meters inside Cambodian territory belongs to Cambodia.
The Thai authorities did not raise objection to the construction of pagoda in 1998 along with a market following the peace and political stability achieved throughout the country in Cambodian history. In this sense, the Thai Government can not say that they are not aware of the construction since 1998. For the existence of this pagoda, in 2008, the Thai Governor of Sisaket Province acknowledged that it was built in 1998. It is crystal clear that the legitimacy of the pagoda was not protested by any Thai authorities until the Temple of Preah Vihear was proposed by Cambodian Government to inscribe the Temple on the World Heritage List in 2007 in Christchurch of New Zealand and was officially granted its status in Quebec of Canada in 2008.
By the year 2000, a MOU was signed between Cambodia and Thailand on the Survey and Demarcation of Land Boundary in which neither pagoda nor market were raised or even protested by Thai Government. According to article 1 (c) of the said MOU, both parties agreed to use the maps of the French- Siamese Commission, which were established by the Convention of 1904 and the Treaty of 1907, by which ANNEX 1 Map used by ICJ in its 1962 judgment was included for the Survey and Demarcation of Land Boundary between the two countries.
Now Thailand’s credibility in its international relations with Cambodia is being watched carefully by the international community, by which Thailand has been seen by the later as a big bully of Cambodia, a small member country of the ASEAN. Given the recent act of aggression of Thai armed forces against Cambodia, Thailand is badly facing with a losing face, image and dignity on the international fora by its claiming to own the area adjacent to the Temple contrary to the international rule of law. In such a very ugly move, Thailand is being exposed as a big bully, an international vigilante that openly defies the international rule of law and acts like Hitler, an international criminal and an anarchist in vanishing the World Order as already stated in the UN Charter.
In the eyes of the national and international public opinion, Abhisit could not make any excuse to reserve its rights of self defense once the Temple already suffered grave damage as the direct result of Thai armed forces’ artillery shelling. Abhisit is clearly aware that the Temple of Preah Vihear is not a military base. On the contrary, the Temple of Preah Vihear is a place for worship and tourism. And at all time there are only a small number of policemen with only light weapons to provide safety to the visitors at the Temple. However, Abhisit could not justify Thailand’s attack at the Temple of Preah Vihear once the Temple is world heritage which must be protected and preserved in the event of armed conflict as guaranteed by the 1954 Hague Convention, which all High Contracting Parties are determined to take all possible steps to protect cultural property.
The Cambodian Mine Action Center’s preliminary report revealed that Thai armed forces fired cluster munitions at the Temple, in which some cluster munitions exploded on the temple grounds and other did not, but those which did not explode will take lives of human being after the fighting ends. This is a real war, not armed clash, which the Thai armed forces’ heavy shelling pounded at the Temple. This is a real war because heavy artilleries and cluster munitions have been fired at the Temple by Thai armed forces under the war waged by Abhisit, and he must be responsible for that.
In this sense, according to the 1954 convention, it is an urgent and most important matter to have the UN Military Observers along with Unesco Assessment Team to visit the Temple of Preah Vihear for its assessment of damages on the spot since the Temple has been granted the status as World Heritage in 2008. With its grave damage, now The Temple of Preah Vihear is really demanding for the international contribution to protect and preserve immediately in conformity with the implementation of the Management Plan which was already submitted to the WHC by Cambodia during the 34th Session of the WHC in Brasilia in 2010. Cambodia gained support in implementation of the Management Plan from the report issued by the World heritage Centre, which serve as the secretariat to the World Heritage Committee.
Therefore, member countries of WHC must take into consideration the urgent matter for protection and preservation of the Temple which is being gravely destroyed by Thai armed forces’ heavy shells. The living soul of the Temple of Preah Vihear is crying for help from UNESCO, one of the most powerful United Nations agencies and the international community for the protection and the salvation of the long-lasting existing cultural heritage of all mankind.
By Long Sokun
Young Researcher on the Case Concerning The Temple of Preah Vihear
(Cambodia v. Thailand) 15 June 1962