Friday, January 21, 2011
Time and again, Veera Somkwankit has come back with fanfare on the stage of Cambodia-Thai relations. This time as before, the actions of Mr. Somkwankit and associates always aim at poisoning Cambodia-Thai relations which are already in a mood of optimism. For instance, it was reported that the visitors’ arrival from both sides rose dramatically. Khmers and Thais alike are so relieved to see their country being returned to full normalization: “as of 10: 30 am on December 1st, 2010, when the troop has been readjusted from the Keo Sekhakirisvarak pagoda, I declare full normalization has been achieved” declared Samdech Techo HUN SEN at the closing of the 2010 annual review of the Ministry of Rural Development on 29 December 2010, the day when Mr.Somkwamkit and his six other nationals were arrested deep inside the territory of Cambodia.
According to their video clips, Mr. Somkwamkit with his bad intention towards Cambodia, had persuaded his companions to enter deep inside Cambodia until they got arrested: “let’s go, if we go there, we will get arrested for sure ” , said Mr. Somkwankit.
Obviously, this attitude of those “ladies and gentlemen” is seen as unusual with the commonly accepted norms and practices in international relations. The point to stress is that they are not ordinary people living next to the border that used to crisscross it for their daily life business or to look for their cows, but they are politicians or political activists from Bangkok.
From this point of views, this grotesque arrogant attitude was perceived in Cambodia as a showcase of their self-image of superiority vis-à-vis Cambodia. Did they intend to play the role of big brother towards Cambodia?
On top of that, Mr. Somkwamkit’s associates at the Thai Patriots Network( TPN) ranted out brashly that the seven Thai nationals were arrested in Thai soil, that Cambodia must release them immediately and unconditionally if not, it would affect the two countries relationship. They went on to insult Cambodia as hell .During their protest next to the border, one of their banners read: “Hell Cambodia”.
Undoubtedly, their self-righteousness is not on the basis of objective reality but is rooted in the realm of imagery and illusion. For them, they want to see what they wish to see and do everything to conveniently adapt and fit their misperception towards Cambodia and to achieve their ultimate goal to reconquer the so-called “Thailand’s Lost Territories” which is often used as a powerful tool in Thai politics.
That is to say that Mr. Somkwankit is typically and perfectly a representative of the kind. His illusion to have frontier in accordance with his dream makes him strong enough to run down the almost 800 Km along Cambodia-Thai border from Preah Vihear to the sea. Once before, he has threatened to uproot boundary pole Number 22 at Ta Muan Toch ruins. This time, he wants to see the pole Number 46 to be reinstalled further inside Cambodia.
Facing this dangerous provocation from Mr. Somkwamkit and associates, we hope that Thai Leadership and the majority of their people are working to stem the rise of those old cliché – ridden ultra-nationalists whose prejudices, misperception and illusion prevent them from objective reality and become a seedbed for hostilities with their neighbors, especially Cambodia.
As close neighbor, the relations of our two countries, as old saying goes, are as close as teeth and tongue; there are many inter-related fields to be cooperated and achieved and many problems to be solved. We have to commit ourselves for peace, stability, share security and prosperity in this global era. With this connection, we witness with great sympathy with the majority of Thai people, especially with those who live next to the border, for their bravely demonstrations to challenge the unwanted and disastrous actions of Mr. Somkwankit and associates. Ordinary people living next to the border on both sides must not be victimized by Mr. Somkwamkit’s illusion.
Given the hostilities rooted in fundamental issues of national identity, a strong leadership will always be needed to break the current impasse of the history. For Cambodia, we are fortunate and proud to have the strong leadership and pragmatism of Samdech Techo HUN SEN who has many times reiterated his willingness to transform the border area for a lasting peace, stability, cooperation and development.
We highly hope that at the end, reality will replace illusion and misperception in our relations; the moment when Mr. Somkwamkit will realize the strange irony of his fate. But from now on, he must follow the law of karma that needs to be fulfilled: on 18 January 2011, the court in Phnom Penh rejected his appeal to be released on bail.
Bajo ! Don Veera S. Quijote !
Viva ! Los relaciones de cooperaciones entre los pueblos del Reino de Cambodia y del Reino de Tailandia !
The trespassing of Thai politicians and agent provocateurs into Cambodia is not something which happened at the spur of the moment to visit Thai citizens who were supposedly facing hardship at the Cambodia-Thai border.
On the contrary, it was stage managed. Just a day before, a Thai court had postponed a verdict on the invasion of the TV station which was due on the 28th but was postponed for a couple of days to enable all the accused to be present. This was for yellow shirt activists who had invaded a television station in 2008.
So, what to do when you are a right-wing group in sight of losing its appeal? Well, always worth rolling out the old ‘call to patriotism’ that always stirs feelings and dulls brains. The day after the postponement a group of seven Thai’s - including MP for Bangkok Panich Vikitsreth and a leading member of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), Veera Somkwamkid - was arrested for trespassing on Cambodian soil.
According to the Thai account, the group was arrested on 29th December, 2010 while inspecting a border area near Ban Nong Jarn in Sa Kaeo's Khok Sung district. There is no surprise in this as this is typical and serial of the Thais to do one thing and claim or allege another. Ancient Thai history is full of accounts of treachery and betrayal.
What is astonishing and unacceptable is the fact that nowhere is the area listed as a disputed area, until the trespassing took place.
The Thai Patriots Network says the group was on Thai territory. It backed its fictitious and frivolous claim with land documents and receipts of tax payments.
Curious, since the Thai government and even the group of seven themselves admit that they were over a kilometre into Cambodian territory. Still, no reason to let the truth get in the way of a nice bit of warmongering.
Fortunately, sanity prevailed, at least on the Cambodian side. While poor Cambodians were shot or set on fire when they trespassed into Thailand for economic reasons, the Thai Politicians and agent provocateurs were merely arrested and put in front of the court to answer charges, first for blatant trespassing and then one of them for espionage – a serious offense in any country and is often subjected to severe punishment or even capital punishment.
Now let us view the evidence:
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit admitted on the 14th of January that he sent Panich Vikritseth to inspect the disputed border between Thailand and Cambodia. However, far more interesting was the news of video footage posted to YouTube which implies that the PM had known the group was going into Cambodia.
"Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva knew Democrat MP Panich Vikitsreth had intruded into Cambodian territory before Mr Panich and six other Thais were arrested by Cambodian soldiers, video footage posted on YouTube shows. "Please tell Somkiat to inform the prime minister that we are already inside Cambodia."
“Hello [name], are you there? Can you hear me clearly? In case we lose the signal here, call Somkiat, the PM’s secretary - because we’ll/I’ll will talk to him personally, anyways – tell Somkiat we’ve crossed the border into Cambodia, so we can coordinate it, in case something happens.
Tell him – we’re now on Cambodian territory! But don’t let anyone else know about it, only the PM knows!“
Tell him – we’re now on Cambodian territory! But don’t let anyone else know about it, only the PM knows!“
The above are clear and incontrovertible evidence of the ill intentions of the trespassers whose sole intent was to intrude into Cambodian territory, spy of Cambodian military installations, at least one of them, stir up blind emotions in Thailand, divert attention away from the rising red shirt dilemma, and reignite the Preah Vihear issue which has thawed significantly since both Prime Ministers had direct contact with each other.
Cambodia’s Prime Minister displayed astute wisdom, enormous patience, and utmost restraint in reacting in the same manner as the delirious and misinformed Thai citizens.
Given the past history between Cambodia and Thailand and how Cambodians have been treated inhumanely by the Thais, it would have been normal for Cambodia to have a knee-jerk reaction which didn’t happen. In fact, Cambodia showed political maturity and its political leadership was strong and had not got carried away with emotions. They decided immediately, under the wise leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen to allow the Cambodian courts to take over the case and charge them according to the laws of the land, which also applies to Thailand and any other sovereign nation in the world.
Cambodia’s position in letting the law takes its course was strengthened by the open admission of the Thai leadership, from the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Senior national and regional defense officials, provincial and also local officials who conceded the 7 Thais had indeed intruded deeply into sovereign Cambodian territory and had in fact, ignored warnings and calls for the seven trespassers to stop despite the efforts of the Thai military.
Instead of looking at the positives – Cambodian military did not react in the knee jerk manner like Thai border units who had indiscriminately opened fire or set Cambodian trespassers on fire. It would have been the right of the Cambodian military to do so as they have a sworn duty to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Cambodia whereas the Thais took what they thought was the political offensive by organizing demonstrations and making false and fabricated accusations and assertions.
There is without doubt overwhelming self incriminating evidence which are incontrovertible to implicate the 7 Thais without any doubt whatsoever, in any position, be it from a point of national law, international law, respect for the territorial integrity of nations and more importantly and alarmingly, the espionage activity of at least one or two of those who were arrested.
The Cambodian court was and is at the centre stage of this Thai stage managed political drama which is unfortunately as real as it gets, with screaming accused who vowed to fight to the end and other disgruntled utterrings.
The Thai Ambassador to the Kingdom of Thailand also made the right decision in calling for a press conference and acknowledging that Thailand had to abide by Cambodian laws, just as Cambodians had to abide by Thai laws if the reverse were to happen and that it was the right full place of the court to decide as Cambodia’s Judiciary should and must be respected.
He also set, speaking after the release of the four Thai nationals, (two were released earlier on bail) that he accepted and acknowledged the decision of the court to release on bail, on the condition they do not leave Cambodia, and the continued detention of one Thai national.
He further elucidated that the process undertaken thus far, had not affected the bilateral relations between Thailand and Cambodia which is improving after a period of tension and border altercations.
What is key to this unfortunate and yet unprovoked episode is that Thailand had invariably acknowledged the sovereignty of Cambodia, the independence of the judiciary and that their seven nationals did indeed trespass into Cambodia.
It is also rather unfortunate that the detained agent provocateur is a serial trespasser who was dead set on pushing his luck with continuous intrusion into Cambodia and testing the patience and resolve of Cambodia and its establishments.
This individual deserves to be punished. Veera Somkwamkid’ deserves the maximum punishment which is unfortunately in Cambodia, not capital in nature and Cambodia is not a nation at war. It if was, there was only one punishment – death. Cambodians are fortunately not barbaric in nature and recognize international covenants, laws and treaties. It may have its deficiencies but it is not barbaric like its neighbor who torture and set on fire or shoot to kill trespassers who are nobody but poor peasants seeking economic opportunities.
This whole episode also shows maturity on both Cambodia and Thailand as it did not create a period of upheavals and tensions as in the past. It also did not put a dent on improving bilateral relations. It also did not affect the Asean region as a whole and Asean is on track to be the ASEAN Community by 2015.
At least, both nations decided at the onset to allow the law to take its course instead of resorting to virulent rhetoric ( on the part of Thailand), and tensions did not flare up, though emotions were high in Thailand, simply because of a sustained and stage managed campaign of misinformation and delusions.
Thai politicians at all levels, including activists and agent provocateurs should realize that when one is living in glass houses, one should not throw stones. To put it more bluntly, when one has a domestic and political agenda to stirring up patriotism and nationalism with a view of gaining political mileage, one should not involve a sovereign nation, especially one with them they have a thorny history.By T. Mohan, a long term resident of Cambodia and political analyst