Thailand/Cambodia: Conflict over Preah Vihear Temple (Part 1)

Both Thailand and Cambodia are claiming the historic Preah Vihear temple and the four square kilometers of territory near the shrine. There was a border clash in the area last Wednesday which killed two Cambodia soldiers and wounded seven Thai soldiers. The two countries are accusing each other of starting the fight.

The tension has not yet subsided since troop buildups are continuing. But there were good updates as well. Both sides are talking now and they initially agreed to conduct joint patrols in the area.

The Mirror provides a narrative of last Wednesday’s fighting. Global Voices author Tharum writes a backgrounder on the dispute. Andy Brouwer uploads an article by Milton Osborne. The author reviews the historical claims of the two countries on the territory. The author also highlights the political turmoil in Thailand as one of the likely factors which caused the escalation of the crisis a few months ago. The author adds:

“It represents yet another instance of a readiness of some Thais, whether politicians or ordinary citizens, to adopt and advance positions that seek to undermine what they see as irrelevant and irksome Cambodian interests.”

Sadchu believes Thailand is playing a “dangerous game”:

“What is Thailand doing? Is it trying to show off its military muscle? Thailand is getting close to the point of splitting the nation into two because of bad nationalism. With existing wound inside and being as a bad neighbor with all the countries around, Thailand is engaging herself with a dangerous game.”

Lything reminds both Thailand and Camdoia that “the rest of the world is watching”:

“Violence against people of another country to show that yours is superior to theirs is like the dumbest way to show patriotism. And by violence, I don't just mean wars; I meant any form of violence, including verbal. When people fight, they forget that the rest of the world is watching.”

someone – remaerd insists the fighting will not solve anything:

“I don’t want soldiers and people die, because it is the game of other people that they play with lives of innocent people. It is so sad historic event. The fighting, though continue till next year, will solve none of the issue of borders. People will die, soldiers will die, children will lose their father, wife will lose her husband, trade is down…”

Cambodia Calling observes that the border clash reminded residents of Khmer fighting in 1975:

“My Khmer landlord told me some Khmers have left Siem Reap to head south to the capital Phnom Penh and people have asked her, “Why are you still in Siem Reap, why aren't you running away?

“Obviously the war is still fresh in the minds of some Khmers and fighting anywhere in the country spooks them. They must be thinking of those days in 1975 when the Khmer Rouge won control of the countryside and instead of running away, people stayed in their homes in Phnom Penh, to disastrous consequences.”

The Mirror emphasizes that peace should be the only choice:

“To use force instead of negotiations on the current issue of disputed land – negotiations which have already been scheduled through mutual agreement – would also contradict international norms of settling bilateral issues through peaceful means, as the member countries of the United Nations have committed themselves. And to use force when negotiation is still possible ignores the bitter lessons of the many years of war in Cambodia’s history. If the choice is war or peace, the choice can only be peace.”

Bloggers are mourning the death of Cambodian soldiers. Preahchan is also sad:

“My deepest condolences for the Cambodian soldiers who died defending our Cambodia’s sovereignty from Thai invasion and aggression. May you rest in peace, and you will be always remembered. May God bless our brave soldiers, and may they win over the greedy invader. I condemn the Siem nation for their shameless invasion of my beloved country.”

My Khmerican Corner uploads an article by Sovatha Ann. The author believes the Preah Vihear territory is a site of shame for Thais rather than one of pride. Sacrava Toons provides us with political cartoons about the controversy.

(The second part of this article will feature the views of Thai bloggers).


  • eric

    I can’t see any positive effect/result from any bilateral talks between both sides anymore. Because each side, especillay Thailand, is not going to soften their stances.

    In my opinion, as much as it can do, Cambodia is trying to avoid any dispute. What does Cambodia gain from the dispute at this time? It gains nothing but serious lose in tourism, investment…

    Contrary to Cambodia, in the current situation of Thailand, the dispute may gives interests to Thailand, at least, there’s no loss for Thailand.

    Without metioning which side is right or wrong, I believe the mediator is very important right now to stop the dispute. Besides calling for utmost restraints from both sides, UN/European Union should show do something, at least show its willing to be a mediator though there’s no request from both sides. The dark cloud is not going to fade away soon, if there’s no immediate mediation.

  • As a Cambodian descendant living in America, I am disgusted by Thais actions in regarding to Preah Vihear Temple. Cambodia historically has never had any deep hatred toward Thailand. According to history, ancient Khmer Empire helped Ancient Siam fought off the Mongols. This can be seen on the stone carvings of Angkor. Through out the centuries, ancient Siam attacked countless times on ancient Khmer Empire. I would like to point out that many of the current Thai cultural traits today were taken from the Khmer culture. Cambodia did nothing wrong. The 1.8 square mile area of land surrounding Preah Vihear belongs to Cambodia this shows on the map of the 1907 treaty signed between Thailand and France.

    It’s about time that Cambodia stands up and fight what is right for her. I felt mad and sad after I learned about the fatality of two Khmer soldiers. I have been through war…so are many of the Cambodians. As a matter of fact, almost all Cambodians have been to hell and back. Where have the Thais been? It appears that Thailand flexed her military muscle at Cambodia, but Cambodia does not flinch after 30 some years of war. If war breaks out, maybe Thais will be able to see what hell is.

    Thailand should back off its claim of the 1.8 sqaure miles, remember Cambodia only hold claims of the provinces of such Buriram, Sisaket, and Surin on the back of her mind.

  • React

    The clash with Cambodian is a spill over from Thailand’s political turmoil. Thai’s military is caught in the middle, between pro and anti gov’t activists. Another military coup is bad for Thailand. A coup in 2006 to oust Thaksin was disastrous for the country and the enconomy.

    Adopting a hard stand against Cambodia on border dispute, even violating international law, is an attempt by Thai military to draw public attention away from internal conflict, which at this point is a stalemate. Many Thai citizens are ashamed at their country’s political turmoil. Thai’s society is split between rural poors and the Bangkok elites(PAD), many of whom are in top military brass. Many Thais mentioned that Cambodians are laughing at them right now, though true or otherwise.

    Having live in Thailand for three months I followed Thailand political turmoil very closely. Hun Sen is best to keep his cool and don’t let Thai military use him as pawn to resolve Thailand’s internal political mess.

  • You start saying: “Both Thailand and Cambodia are claiming the historic Preah Vihear temple…” – The verdict of the International Court of Justice of 1962 says: “…the Court can only give a finding of principle in favor of Cambodia, without relating it to any particular objects. For these reasons,
    by nine votes to three, finds that the Temple of Preah Vihear is situated in territory under the sovereignty of Cambodia.” Since the efforts started to get the Preah Vihear Temple listed as a World Heritage Site with UNESCO, the representatives of the Thai government have always accepted the 1962 ruling as valid. – But it is equally true that the task to deliminate the undefined sections of the Cambodian-Thai border, due since 1962, has not been done.

  • Pheakdey

    What is secretly conducted behind the scene is unknown and sure unnecessary, and what is truly undeniable is the fact that the nation of Cambodian at large will not let Thai take our existing lands anymore. And the world’s eyes prove it right. Thai had better reconsider their misleading on-going invasion along Cambodian border, and stop it to end fire.

  • […] Both Thailand and Cambodia are claiming the historic Preah Vihear temple and the four square kilometers of territory near the shrine. There was a border clash in the area last Wednesday. What are the reactions of bloggers? [link] […]

  • […] Cambodia or Thailand? Both countries are asserting ownership rights over the temple which led to a border clash last week. Several soldiers were killed and wounded during the […]

  • […] Countries And A Temple So this week while I was browsing the blogs I came across a post on the global voices blog about two countries. It was about who really owns the historic Preah Vihear Temple, is it the country of Cambodia or […]

  • Khmer Student

    Dear All,

    As a MBA student, I just created a map based on 1750. What is inportant about this map? This map shows that Bangkok belonged to Cambodia in 1750, so Thais should give Bangkok to Cambodia. As mention, I have all the evidends to prove this. I do not just mention or make it up. Oh, by the way, I am a law student in America if Thais do not have enough professional people, I could be a person to be represent Thais. Again, Bangkok and Chiang May used to a Cambodian territory, so Thais should give back Bank Kok and Chiang May to Cambodia. No country on earth has professional people like Thais, no body understands about the law in Thai. This is because Thais have been fighting against each other so many times. I think I could be a prime minister of Thais if Thais would recommend. I’m sorry for Thais that you have to live in that fake democracy. Let me know if you need a map that I just drew it. This map is based on 1750 when Bang Kok and Chaing May belonged to Cambodia.

  • Gany

    Well, if you think you are so smart enough to be Thailand’s priminister. I suggest you just go back and correct your sloppy grammar in your posted opinion first. Though being as a law student in the US, your words sound like a mere middle schooler to me. Then the next thing I’d suggest is you should try to watch over your own contry being ruled by such crappy tyranny prior to spitting bads of others. I’ll see how far your mother land will go but I would say, it will be just stepping still over the same place where people have insufficient everyday nutritions filling their emptied stomach but full of such ideally narrow nationalism from those wicked politics.

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