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

Categories: East Asia, Cambodia, Thailand, Breaking News, Ethnicity & Race, Governance, International Relations, Politics, War & Conflict

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 [1] 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 [2] and they initially agreed to conduct joint patrols [3] in the area.

The Mirror provides a narrative [4] of last Wednesday’s fighting. Global Voices author Tharum writes a backgrounder [5] on the dispute. Andy Brouwer uploads an article by Milton Osborne. The author reviews the historical claims [6] 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” [7]:

“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” [8]:

“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 [9]:

“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 [10] 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 [11]:

“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 [12] the death of Cambodian soldiers. Preahchan is also sad [13]:

“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 [14] rather than one of pride. Sacrava Toons [15] provides us with political cartoons [16] about the controversy [17].

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