Tension escalated at the Thai-Cambodian border

17 07 2008
Preah Vihear Temple

Preah Vihear Temple

As can be expected, tension along the Thai-Cambodian border has escalated in the last few days. Yesterday, I learnt from the news report that 3 Thais were detailed and this morning news confirmed that they were already released. Although those 3 ordinary Thai citizens were released, it is claimed that a number of Thai soldiers are detained by the Cambodian soldiers.

Noppadol Pattama, former Foreign Minister, resigned on 14 July 2008

Noppadol Pattama, former Foreign Minister, resigned on 14 July 2008

The issue captured much of public attention after the former Foreign Minister Noppadol Pattama had already signed a joint communique with the Cambodian government on 18 June. The PAD and the Opposition Democrat Party used the issue to exert pressure on the government both inside and outside the parliament which had led Noppadol to tender his resignation – as a responsible party.

Using nationalism as a tool to exert pressure on the government can be easily understood – it is cheap and it always works, but who will be responsible for the consequences.

I had a chance to talk with a Cambodian colleague recently when we met in Bangkok. I asked “what is your opinion on the issue of Preah Vihear?”. She said Cambodian people are upset with the latest development and do not understand why Thai politicians have to politicise the issue further. Leaving the issue beyond politics and it may be solvable? May be, but I am not quite sure. Yet, I do agree with my colleague that politcising the issue has made it even more difficult to solve.

Both countries have different information background on this Hindu Temple. The Thais would argue that our government since King Rama the Fifth had never accepted the ruling of the International Court of Justice, the staircase leading to the temple itself is evidence. The Cambodian would rebut that the temple has all along belonged to Cambodia and the ruling of the international court ascertained it. While there can be no proved as to who is right and wrong, would not it be better to leave it as it has been. Now that the temple has been listed as a World Heritage, perhaps the Thai should also submit the request to list the surrounding areas as World Heritage as well.



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