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Let’s deal with this calmly

The last time Thai and Cambodian forces fought their worst sporadic
battle over the disputed area surrounding the ancient Hindu temple of
Preah Vihear, or Khao Phra Viharn as it is called in Thailand, was in
October 2008. Several clashes were reported and both sides suffered
death and injury among their men. Although further skirmishes occurred
in the years following, they were deemed minor and insignificant.
The hostilities are believed to stem from Cambodia’s unilateral
effort to have the ancient temple registered as a World Heritage Site
by Unesco, which it succeeded in doing, and also from the Cambodian
government’s appointment of Thailand’s deposed prime minister Thaksin
Shinawatra as its special economic adviser. Only after Thaksin’s
resignation from the post last August did relations between the two
countries gradually take a turn for the better.
Prime Minister Hun Sen told Cambodian and foreign press on Dec 6
that relations between Thailand and Cambodia had returned to normal.
This was further reinforced by a visit to Phnom Penh on Dec 20-21 by
Thai army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. On the occasion of that visit,
Hun Sen handed over to Gen Prayuth and the Thai ambassador to Phnom
Penh, Prasas Prasasvinitchai, three Thais who had been granted a royal
pardon after they were sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment for illegal
The rapprochement appeared to go smoothly until shortly before the
year ended, when seven Thais, including Democrat MP Panich Vikitsreth
and Veera Somkwamkid, a leading member of the Thai Patriots Network, a
splinter faction of the People’s Alliance for Democracy, were arrested
in Cambodia on charges of illegal entry and trespass in a military
zone, while on an inspection trip to investigate alleged border
encroachment by Cambodian civilians. Though the Thai government tried
to play down the event, the Cambodian government seemed to blow it out
of proportion by charging Mr Veera and his secretary with spying.
The release and return home last week of Mr Panich and his four
colleagues was a welcome move from Cambodia and a hopeful sign that
ties would improve. But they did not. Thai media revealed that a small
stone tablet had been put up by Cambodians at Wat Kaew Sikha Khiri
Sawara temple which is located in the disputed area. The tablet,
inscribed in the Khmer language, proclaimed ownership of the disputed
land and denounced Thais as “invaders”.
The message was definitely provocative and unfriendly and the
Cambodian government should have known better. If Cambodia values good
neighbourly relations with Thailand, this is no way to show it.
Also, the massing of troops for “routine drilling” by both sides as
a show of force only serves to intensify the conflict unnecessarily.
This is a time for cool heads to prevail, not a flexing of muscles. And
both sides know that the right channel to resolve their border dispute
is through the Joint Boundary Commission.
Any decent Cambodian and Thai will know that, by geography and
destiny, we are neighbours and must live side by side together.
Wouldn’t it be much better if we lived in peace and harmony as friends,
leaving behind our bitter history?
Bangkok Post
Categories: Local News
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