Home > Local News > Democrats wrong from the start on Preah Vihear

Democrats wrong from the start on Preah Vihear

It seems no political parties, other than Suwit Khunkitti’s Social
Action Party, want to follow Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s call
last week for clear positions on the conflict with Cambodia over the
Hindu temple of Preah Vihear. They don’t want to take the political risk
of losing the battle.

Abhisit and his Democrat Party have taken a clear – but wrong – stance on the issue from the beginning.
the party has been mistaken on the issue since it was in opposition. In
2008, it tagged along with the nationalist People’s Alliance for
Democracy (PAD) to exploit crude nationalism over Preah Vihear and
attack the governments of Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat.
Samak’s government supported Cambodia in listing the temple as a World
Heritage Site, the Democrats and the PAD accused Samak and his foreign
minister Noppadon Pattama of losing Thai territory and the chance to
reclaim Preah Vihear.
Abhisit made the accusation based on a
misinterpretation of the International Court of Justice (ICJ)’s 1962
ruling on the Preah Vihear case. The court ruled the temple “was
situated in territory under the sovereignty of Cambodia”.
– as he argued in Parliament during a censure motion against Noppadon
in June 2008 – said the ICJ ruled only on the ruined sandstone temple,
while the territory on which it stood belonged to Thailand. Thus, for
Abhisit, any Cambodian activities in the area were violations of Thai
Abhisit’s interpretation contradicted Thailand’s own
consistent stance since 1962, when a Thai Cabinet decision unilaterally
set the boundary at Preah Vihear to comply with the ICJ ruling.
fact, during the military-backed government under General Surayud
Chulanont and later under the elected governments of Samak and Somchai,
Thailand used the Cabinet-drawn line in dealing with Cambodia’s proposal
to list the temple.
Thailand’s legal team also used it in making
their argument in the recent ICJ trial, after Cambodia asked the court
to clarify the 1962 judgement and to instigate provisional measures to
have Thai troops withdraw from the disputed area.
Cambodia has
agreed, at least for now, to use that line as the Preah Vihear boundary
in its proposal for the temple’s listing and management. The land that
is disputed is not included in the management plan, but that did not
stop Abhisit from blocking Phnom Penh’s plan to run the temple as a
World Heritage Site. The premier accused Cambodia of taking Thai
territory as a buffer zone around Preah Vihear and asked the World
Heritage Committee to suspend its management plan.
Abhisit will
send Suwit, his minister of natural resources and the environment, to
derail Cambodia’s plans at the World Heritage Committee meeting in Paris
next week.
The move cornered Cambodia and offered Phnom Penh no
option but to bring the case back to the ICJ for a clarification of the
scope and meaning of the 1962 judgement. The court is currently
considering Cambodia’s request for a ban on Thai military activities at
the disputed area.
The decisions of both organisations are likely to be delivered around the same time, perhaps shortly after the Thai election.
called for other parties to make their stances clear in order to
relieve the political pressure mounting on him. In case Thailand loses
the court battle, Abhisit needs someone in the same boat- as well as
someone with a different stance to shift the blame to.

The Nation
Categories: Local News
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