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The issue of the current border dispute between Cambodia and Thailand surrounding Preah Vihear Temple, I’m as angry as all Cambodian are at what we perceive as a Thai-initiated conflict of grossly unjust proportions. Since this border dispute flared up two years ago, we, Cambodians, have never been happy with this issue that still being continued till now.
The question that we are wondering is why Thailand is trying to export its domestic political problems and dump them on poor Cambodia? The sentiment here is that if the red shirts and the yellow shirts want to fight it out, do so somewhere in Thailand, but don’t use Cambodia as a scapegoat.
Actually, Cambodia has no interest whatsoever in another protracted violent conflict with anybody. The Kingdom is still trying to recover from 30 years of civil war, Pol Pot madness and the ensuing guerilla conflict in the ’80s and ’90s that in total cost the lives of more than 2.5 million Cambodians and left the country in ruins. So we, Cambodia, have never thought to fight or had a war anymore – we wish to live in peace.
The view from Cambodia is simple: the issue of sovereignty over the temple was awarded to Cambodia in 1962 when the case was submitted to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
If Thailand didn’t want to abide by the court’s ruling then why did it agree to submit the case in the first place? And why are they groaning now and firing artillery shells at the temple almost 50 years later?
Moreover, Thailand ever said: Well, we controlled the temple in the 1800s and we, Khmers, replied: Yeah, but WE BUILT IT! We started construction in the early 9th century, modified and improved it for 250 years and then continued to pray there and celebrate our Gods for another three centuries until you guys stole it after you sacked and looted our capital at Angkor Wat three times between 1352 and 1431.
The Thai accusation that Cambodia has had some secret plot to steal Thai land along the border is also seen as ludicrous.
Everybody knows that since 1970 Cambodia has been too consumed with domestic strife to take even one meter of land from any of its neighbors. In fact, foreign aid officials who worked on the Thai border in the ’80s will readily admit that border creep worked in reverse. It was Thai farmers living in peace – and I’m not accusing the Thai government of some orchestrated campaign here – who took the opportunity to plant a few extra hectares in disputed border areas while internally Cambodia was in complete disarray.
Cambodian TV stations have been running fundraisers off and on with donations large and small pouring in from all quarters to support our soldiers to protect our country. And yes, of course there are Cambodian soldiers with weapons bunkered around the temple. If they weren’t there the Thai military could literally walk in and take control of it in five minutes.
If this dispute goes real hot, relations between Cambodia and Thailand will be ruined for years, hundreds on both sides will die needlessly and the economic costs to the two countries will be astronomical. So how the governments in my country solve this issue?
Anyways, I hope the ASEAN meeting at JAKATA is a major positive development and hope will bring peace soon to both of our countries Cambodia and Thailand.
On Feb 21-22, 2011 at JAKARTA - All ASEAN foreign ministers are to hold a one-day informal meeting in Jakarta to find a solution for the border dispute of Thailand and Cambodia that has killed scores of people. Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa “said unarmed observers would be on both sides of the border”, he added, “this is an observer team – not a peacekeeping or peace enforcement team.
Finally, ASEAN has concluded its meeting on Thai-Cambodian conflict and agreed to send “observers” to the area. Moreover, Cambodia and Thailand have agreed to allow Indonesian observers to monitor disputed border territory that has been the scene of deadly fighting between the two nations – up to 40 military and civilian observers would be sent to the area.