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

Who owns the historic Preah Vihear Temple – 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 fighting.

Both countries have since then agreed to talk. But the problem is far from resolved. Thailand is prepared to evacuate its citizens from Cambodia. Villagers on the Cambodian side of the disputed territory are fleeing. Their livelihoods have been affected. Thai companies in Cambodia are worried too.

What is the root of the conflict? It is definitely more than just a desire to own four square kilometers of land. Protest actions against Thailand’s government are still continuing. Is the Preah Vihear controversy a tactic to “divert attention (of Thai citizens) in times of troubles”?

Many of Thailand’s problems today are blamed on ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. What is his role in the Preah Vihear issue? Apparently, he has business interests in Cambodia. PAD's Facts Info reports:

“Former Thai Prime Minister and business tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra has recently signed an official deal with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to allegedly develop the Cambodia’s south-western maritime province of Koh Kong. Thaksin wants to secure very convenient Cambodian-based facilities to prepare his political power comeback in Thailand. The current tension between Cambodia and Thailand about Preah Vihear temple is in part due to false assurances given by Thaksin to Hun Sen in the past about border delineation.”

The writer also adds that the Preah Vihear dispute will affect future discussions on other border issues between Thailand and Cambodia:

“But neither of the countries can afford to lose any of this land. This is not only because the area carries with it the issue of territorial sovereignty, which no modern state can bear to lose, but also because the final fate of the area could signify the future of other overlapping areas still to be demarcated, particularly those in the sea.”

The Preah Vihear fighting may also be about a struggle for the oil and gas reserves in the Gulf of Thailand. Brendan Brady and Thet Sambath explain:

“Thailand and Cambodia both assert claims over some 27,000 square kilometres of disputed maritime territory in the Gulf of Thailand that is believed to contain significant amounts of oil and gas reserves.

“The expanse of water known as the Overlapping Claims Area has been the source of a contentious, decades-old dispute with Thailand but has gained a new imperative amidst the current border crisis.

“Since the border dispute erupted, suspicions have intensified that by asserting control over Preah Vihear, Cambodia is angling to improve its claims over the disputed offshore block.”

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is also using the Preah Vihear issue to ask for more military funds. And the renewed conflict between the two countries fits into Hun Sen’s “development objectives” for Preah Vihear.

What are the reactions of several Thailand-based bloggers? Gnarly Kitty reacts:

“WTF? A war? Over a land? In 21st Century? Two guys were killed already. That's it. We're reverting.”

A mosaic through my eyes, a foreign student, observes:

“Thai nationalists are burning over the border with Cambodia. Thailand is doing what it can to prevent a ‘loss of face’ to Cambodia.”

Chinesethai leaves a comment in the blog of Thailand Crisis. The reader criticizes the Thai army:

“I think army leadership is also important. You can see that each conflict involves not only gunfire but also information war. While the Cambodian officials give numerous interviews almost on an hourly basis to foreign presses, we rarely hear anything from the Thai army. All we learn is from the media.”

The Nation's State blames “dangerous racist nationalism”:

“Nationalism is a poison. It might not have always been so as nations across Southeast Asia fought off the yoke of colonial oppression by harnessing the power of nationalism.

“But it is a poison now that has reached such critical mass in Thailand that issues like the border conflict over Preah Vihear with Cambodia and the festering southern insurgency are perpetuated by Thai nationalism.

“Essentially, close minded nationalists have prevented rational discourse on what Thailand is and who it represents to such an extent that the ability of the country to deal with conflict – like Phreah Vihear and the southern Insurgency – in a rational way is severely challenged.”

The blogger also mentions the strengths and limitation of international law to resolve the conflict:

“What remains as a salient indicator of adherence to international law is that Thailand, with its vastly larger and technologically superior army, has not simply annexed the temple during this latest confrontation. There are certainly other mitigating factors, such as trade and tourism disruptions, that might make Cambodia and Thailand reluctant to engage in armed conflict yet international law’s calming influence and dispute mechanisms are not just working to ease the conflict but defining the very parameters of the argument. The true test though will not only be to see if armed conflict can be avoided but will be to see a lasting resolution that will prevent future conflict between the two sovereign nations.”


  • neak

    I dont know how to say with the bad nation like Thai.We have known already, Thai is not only want belonging to Preah Vihea but also Angkor Wat that all people over the world have known that it was built since Thaland not yet born. Hahahahahahahaha so you all able to decide by yourself.

  • Thailand


    Thailand defeated the Khmer Empire.

    King Naresuan conquers Cambodia,
    At the height of her empire, Siam controlled Cambodia, Laos, Shan States (Mynmar), half of Malaysian mainland including current location of KL.

    By 1907, France and England have siezed Thai territories outside current Thaialnd.

    1941: thailand invades Cambodian/Laos to retake lost territory, the following, Franco Thai war ensues, Thai army victorious.

    After WWII France threatens to VETO thailand from the UN (bastards) unless it gives back “French Colonial Territory”, if this had not happened Vietnam war may never have happened.

    France loses control of these countries, communist take over.

    Today, these counries are deeply in poverty, with an eocnomy 27 times larger than that of Cambodia and over 30 times larger than Laos, Thailand continues to help Cambodia and Laos. Cambodia should be greatful, without Thailand Cambodia would be nothing.

    • Sweetly

      Nice history from the Thailand contributor. But I think you did not get the moral of the story correctly. Let me help you then.

      1- King Naresuan is a great king, because he conquered, I mean invaded, the region. This indicates clear the love and compassion of this great King to the people.

      2- Without Thailand’s help, sorry I mean invasion, Cambodia and Laos would be nothing. We should be grateful right?

      3- I can see that now Thailand really helps Cambodia to register Preah Vihear for UNESCO. It helps to clear the sorounded territory by burning down Cambodia’s village and market with Bombsssss.

      To sum up, you should continue to be proud of this great Thailand. And if you do you will make sure that your Thai blood and spirit will continue to contribute peace, love and compassion among the region.

      Of course you have a typical Thai blood and mindset. That is why you call your self Thai. People in this region could never ever do like you, because in our own natures we are simply incapable of building greeds and pride like you creatures. You are absolutely outstanding and will of course forever stand there alone. Maybe to learn to be like you, we have to practice our buddism better, because at the moment we are not that good like you. You Thai, who is good at fake smiling and tricky words. keep up the good talents my friend.

  • Neak

    I am not specialist on this but as we look back to the past history until now we are able to see clearly who is….? Why Thailand have many trouble with neighbor country and why other no?

  • I thinks It’s my i dea. this temple is thai properties. I was born in surin province. i already known.

    • long time ago people think the eath flat,because they don’t look from the moon.the same like you that born in surin province,too close that blind your eyes,you better go far away from thailand to america and learn the world history.capice

  • Jew

    there is no problem if cambodian government stops to create new problems, we the thai and cambodian are the relatives please be in peaceful. Preah Vihear is not a problem per se but bad people who create problems are problems.


  • […] accuses Thailand of provoking a war when the latter sent troops in the disputed Preah Vihear territory last year. Thailand accuses Cambodia of interfering on its internal affairs when […]

  • Pat

    Hey, SWEETLY,

    I am a Thai citizen and I do not know where you are from, but from what you were saying, it affects our whole nation. If you want to correct or criticize someone then please, just talk about THAT person only and not our country. You would not be satisfied either if I talk sh*t about your country, would you? I do not know whether you are Cambodian, but it would be really nice if you respect other nationalities too :)

  • james

    yes…library and world archived will tell you all on whom is the righfull owner of Preah Vihear, and while we are this subject on bordering claimed then we should go all the way back to an early 700 to see who has the know how on building such impressive tructures.

    We will see which country will end up with eggs in their face.

  • […] red-shirt demonstrations. Tensions with neighbouring Cambodia have centred around the 11th-century Preah Vihear Temple, which the International Court of Justice awarded to Cambodia in 1962 but unfortunately […]

  • Lindros

    The International Community especially the US should put pressure on the current Thai government led by Abhisit Vejajiva to stop explointing the disputed land next to Preah Vihear Temple as a tool to unite the fractured Thai society between the red and the yellow and to gain the political benefit at home at the expense Cambodia and its people. Thailand being the Non-NATO major ally of the US should definitely be held to a higher standard.

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