http://www.cambodia.org/blogs/editorials/labels/Preah%20Vihear.htmlFriday, January 25, 2008
Hor Namhong: Thai comments over Preah Vihear Temple “stupid”
Original report from Phnom Penh
25 January 2008
The lawyers defending Cambodia at The Hague International Court of Justice in 1962 (Photo: NorodomSihanouk.info)
The Hague International Court of Justice which handed the ownership of Preah Vihear Temple to Cambodia (Photo: NorodomSihanouk.info)
Foreign Minister Hor Namhong condemned as “stupid” comments made by a Thai official Friday over a disputed border temple in the north.
Preah Vihear temple, known to the Thais as Khao Phra Viharn, has become controversial in the unmarked border area, claimed by both Thailand and Cambodia.
Thai Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Pichasanu Putchakarn told the Bangkok Post Friday that Cambodiaโ€�s recent unilateral request seeking UN World Heritage Site status for the temple could upset relations between the two neighbors.
“Thailand has to think of its national interests. We may protest to the Cambodian government through diplomatic channels and try to explain to other countries that Thailand has tried to cooperate with Cambodia in requesting the World Heritage listing of the sanctuary together,” Pichasanu told the Post.
“That general is stupid, as he does not know anything,” Hor Namhong said Friday, referring to Pichasanu. “Preah Vihear temple belongs to Cambodia. That we want to put it into Unescoโ€�s World Heritage is our right.”
Cambodia had shown a willingness to negotiate with Thailand “several times,” Hor Namhong said. “More Thai experts than the international ones showed up in the negotiation. That is a stupid claim.”
Cambodia and Thailand both have troops stationed at the border near the temple, Pichasanu said.
“If Thailand still objects to Preah Vihear being listed as a World Heritgage Site, that is fine. Weโ€�ll still keep going,” said government spokesman Khieu Kanharith. “We have warned Thailand that if it blocks the entry to Preah Vihear from Thailand again, we will block it forever. Then it is Thailand that will totally suffer from the loss.”
Labels: Preah Vihear
Military bungles over Preah Vihear
Cambodia and Thailand have for several years been cooperating on the restoration of the ancient temples – which are easily accessible from the Thai side of the border – as part of a joint tourism development. The timing of the protest by the Defence Ministry, at a time when Thailand is about to revert to democracy after some 16 months of military rule, raises the serious question as to whether there is an ulterior motive behind this uncalled-for protest.
On Thursday, the Defence Ministry accused the Cambodian government of trying to create “false historical evidence” with the intention of laying claim to the area adjacent to Preah Vihear, particularly the access road, which is located inside Thai territory. The Defence Ministry also asked the Foreign Ministry to lodge a formal protest with Phnom Penh. According to the Defence Ministry, Cambodia has unilaterally created a new boundary in order to claim sovereignty over the entire area, including the access road on the Thai side, and is campaigning for international support for this. The Defence Ministry spokesman went as far as saying that the incoming government should take the issue seriously, as Phnom Penh could once again incite anti-Thai sentiments among Cambodians living along the border – and that this could threaten Thailand’s national security. He said the Army was on alert to protect Thailand’s sovereignty.
Such dramatic posturing by the military comes across as ludicrous and bordering on hysterical. There have been no signs of any possibility of armed confrontation between the two countries over Preah Vihear. The dispute over the site was supposed to have been settled more than four decades ago.
Sure enough, Thai military leaders yesterday backtracked, dismissing what the Defence Ministry’s spokesman, Lt-General Pichsanu Puchakarn, said at a press conference was an inaccurate representation of the situation.
Preah Vihear is still something of a sensitive issue in the relations between Thailand and Cambodia. It became a hot issue again early last year when Thailand blocked Phnom Penh’s attempt to list it as a World Heritage site on the grounds that Cambodia’s annex document claimed some parts in an “overlapping area” claimed by both countries. In 1962, following bitter legal wrangling between the two countries, the International Court of Justice ruled in favour of Phnom Penh, which was given sovereignty over the temple compound. But the access route to the site is mainly on the Thai side of the border. Negotiations on the overlapping area are ongoing.
In clarifying the Defence Ministry’s clumsy statements, Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said yesterday that Thailand and Cambodia had agreed since 2000 to have a joint boundary committee and would not make any alteration to the environment or physical structures in the area before the demarcation is completed.
In the meantime, the spokesman said both countries continued to discuss how best to get Preah Vihear listed as a World Heritage Site for joint tourism development and mutual benefit.
The two countries said there was no dispute, and Thailand agreed to provide technical assistance to train Cambodian workers to restore the temple prior to the proposal to list the site.
If this serves as a lesson to the military, it is this: the armed forces should learn to mind their own business and not over-extend themselves by venturing into unfamiliar territory – like diplomacy – that they know little about. Everybody knows by now that the Thai armed forces have been fighting a losing war against Islamic militants/Malay separatists in the deep South and their prestige is taking a beating. The priority for the military is to disengage itself from politics and put its own house in order.
Labels: Preah Vihear
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Preah Vihear: The border was already settled by The Hague International Court of Justice
The border was already settled by The Hague International Court of Justice
Near the end of June 2007, following Thailandโ€�s reservations, UNESCO decided to โ€�suspendโ€� Cambodiaโ€�s request for the protection of the Preah Vihear Temple as a World Heritage site, and the UN body asked the two countries โ€�to quickly resolve the issue of border demarcation at this location.โ€�
In Bangkok, according to the news published on June 29, 2007, Thailandโ€�s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued the following statement: โ€�In principle, Thailand totally agrees that the Preah Vihear Temple should be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, under the reservation that the differences on the siteโ€�s joint management and the problems of border demarcation are resolved first.โ€� Immediately after this statement, Thailand sent its โ€�black-clad uniformedโ€� troops to prevent the access to the temple from the Thai side, and to close the border. These actions effectively created unease and excitation on Cambodiaโ€�s side.
The action taken by the Thai troops is nothing new when it comes to the Cambodian Preah Vihear Temple. Two years ago, in May 2005, โ€�black-cladโ€� Thai soldiers undertook the same action towards the temple. At the time, Thammarak Isarangura, the Thai Minister of Defense, declared that โ€�Thai troops would remain (there) to assure that there will not be any crossings into the territories in conflict, until the two countries complete their demarcation work.โ€� In Phnom Penh, Thailandโ€�s ambassador to Cambodia declared that Thailand intends to respect the decision of The Hague International Court of Justice which gave the ownership of the Preah Vihear Temple to Cambodia in 1962. โ€�However, the decision concerned the temple only and it did not precise the border delineation โ€ฆ Thatโ€�s why this problem persists until nowadays.โ€� On July 06, 2007, Viraphand Vacharathit, Thailandโ€�s ambassador in Phnom Penh, implicitly placed the blame on Hun Senโ€�s government when he declared to the news media that โ€�Cambodia knew very well that UNESCO would suspend this decision on Preah Vihear โ€ฆ because of the absence of the border demarcation lineโ€ฆโ€�
In 2005, Hun Senโ€�s government promised to โ€�resolve this problem of border delineation as soon as possible.โ€� Now, Khieu Kanharith, the Minister of Information and spokesman of the government, vaguely said that โ€�some small technical problems still remain to be resolved, regarding the new housing constructions, radio [broadcast] towers, irrigation canals, etcโ€ฆโ€� On the other hand, Va Kim Hong, the government minister in charge of border issues who is even more confused that his ministry of information colleague, let it be known that there would not be โ€�any problem left for anyone, (because) the local authorities, the Preah Vihear provincial authorities, and our local people just have to present to us their problems, and we will resolve them together.โ€�
The issue questioned by UNESCO involves the resolution of the so-called โ€�white zoneโ€� located in front of Preah Vihear, a zone which Hun Senโ€�s government admitted its existence in the past few years to the great satisfaction of Thailand, this in spite of the historical stipulations of treaties recognized by both countries since 1907, and in spite of the irrevocable decision rendered by The Hague International Court of Justice in 1962 regarding this temple. In fact The Hague Courtโ€�s decision dated June 15, 1962, clearly indicated the prior existence of a border delineation between Thailand and Cambodia at this location, BEFORE the court issued its decision to hand the ownership of the temple to Cambodia (please read the court decision attached). There was no โ€�white zoneโ€� and there is nothing to โ€�negotiateโ€� again on the border demarcation in front of the Preah Vihear temple. All that remain are the reference to the maps retained by The Hague International Court of Justice, and the building of the corresponding border demarcation posts. Such operation would be completed within a few weeks.
However, we recall that the existence of these โ€�white zonesโ€� was adopted by Hun Sen and his party, the PRPK-CPP (PRPK is the acronym for the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kampuchea which was later rechristened to the Cambodian People Party or CPP), following their conclusions on illegal treaties and agreements with Hanoi in the 80s on Cambodiaโ€�s new borders. These illegal treaties and agreements, which are perfidiously put into application, have de facto rejected or made obsolete all or part of other international treaties of Cambodia with respect to her territorial integrity. For example, the agreement of the cession by the PRPK-CPP to Hanoi of the islands of Koh Tral and Koh Krachak Seh, and of the so-called โ€�Historical Watersโ€� (a maritime โ€�white zoneโ€�) between Vietnam and the Peopleโ€�s Republic of Kampuchea in July 1982, changed the delimitation of the maritime border between Cambodia and Vietnam, and subsequently, the one between Cambodia and Thailand, and it created โ€�white zonesโ€� at sea between the two latter countries also. Obviously, these โ€�white zonesโ€� later became conflict zones, zones where the law of jungle and instability prevail, and where the first victims are the defenseless and unprotected Cambodian population, this in spite of the confused and irresponsible assurances given by Hun Senโ€�s government (1).
The note by UNESCO on the imprecision of the border in front of the Preah Vihear Temple โ€“ an imprecision based on Thailandโ€�s reservations which completely ignores the decision handed by the International Court of Justice on June 15, 1962 โ€“ is a dangerous precedent on the historical rights of Cambodiaโ€�s territorial integrity: it is the UNESCO, a UN institution, which accepts, at this location, the existence of a so-called โ€�white zoneโ€� between the two countries. What will become of the other โ€�white zonesโ€� which were recognized by the Hun Senโ€�s regime and by his party with Cambodiaโ€�s neighbors? By following this path, the entire Cambodia will soon become a โ€�white zoneโ€� for Thailand and Vietnam โ€“ if it is not one now already โ€“ just as it was 200 years ago.
(1) During the 1954 Geneva conference, a 1:100,000-scale map produced and kept in France (latest editionยญ) was submitted to the International Control Commission (which was later presided by India under the leadership of Mr. K.L. Bindra), as well as a smaller scale map for ease of use under the circumstance.
On the other hand, between 1968 and 1971, France provided help to Cambodia to establish a 1:200,000-scale geologic map with the participation of 8 French geologists and engineers, as well as 20 other Khmer engineers who performed the works and the research under the direction Mr. Sean Pengse.
At the time, there was no โ€�white zoneโ€�.
Paris, July 9, 2007
Vice-President, Cambodia’s Border Committee
Labels: Preah Vihear