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Friday, February 25, 2011

Cambodia vs. Thailand foments more conflict


JOEL BRINKLEY COMMENTARY

Across the Middle East and beyond, kings and dictators are quaking in their castles, afraid their people will throw them from power. All except one, that is.

In Cambodia, longtime dictator Hun Sen, like his fellow potentates around the world, watched the news and figured out his own strategy. He decided to give a speech and threaten his people.

“I would like to tell you that if you want to strike as in Tunisia,” he warned, “I will close the door and beat the dog this time.”

That was last month, and all has been quiet since. Don Jameson, a former State Department official who served in Phnom Penh, just returned from a long visit there and told me, “I judge that the chances of an uprising against the Hun Sen regime similar to those in Tunisia and Egypt are close to zero.”

Next door in Thailand, meanwhile, thousands of anti-government protesters poured into the streets, demanding early elections. But they aren’t inspired by events in Tunisia, Egypt or anyplace else. Dueling groups of angry protestors have been taking to the streets in Bangkok, demanding change every few months since 2008. To all of those outraged mobs in the Middle East, Thailand’s protesters offer a shrug and say: Welcome to the club.

This is a tale of two states, who happen to be at war.

On the Thai-Cambodian border sits a small, crumbling 11th century Hindu temple called Preah Vihear. In 1962, the International Court of Justice ruled that it belonged to Cambodia. The ancient Khmer empire built it, after all. But the justices offered no opinion on the empty land surrounding it. Then in 2008, Unesco declared Preah Vihear a World Heritage Site. That’s when Thailand got angry.

For centuries, a favored Thai hobby has been kicking Cambodia around. Until a century ago, Thailand occupied the nation’s western half.

In 2008, Thailand assaulted the Preah Vihear area, asserting ownership of the land. Several soldiers from both sides died. Eventually the violence ebbed, but not before the leaders of both states learned an important lesson.

In Cambodia, the educated population (a tiny percentage of the total) generally hates their dictator, just as is the case in most authoritarian states. But when Thailand attacked in 2008, for once everyone in the nation, even Hun Sen’s opponents, rallied around him in support of the fight against Cambodia’s despised, ancient enemy, the Siamese.

It’s unclear who started the fighting. Several soldiers and civilians have been killed. But politicians on both sides benefit.

Hun Sen once sued Michael Hayes, who was founding editor of the Phnom Penh Post, an English-language newspaper. The two certainly aren’t friends. But now, Hayes writes: “I am as angry as all Cambodians are at what we perceive as a Thai-initiated conflict.”

The timing is near-perfect. Cambodia holds local elections next year and national elections in 2013. The very same holds true in Thailand. In fact, leaders on both sides appear to be encouraging the conflict.

Thailand just announced new elections by June. Sondhi Limthongkul, leader of the opposition group representing the business and political establishment, gave a fiery pre-election speech in which he called the current president weak-kneed and advocated an invasion of Cambodia.

Cambodia is weak, and “to die for a great cause, to protect the land, is worth it,” he declared, bringing cheers.

In Cambodia, Hun Sen vows to remain in office until he is 90. He’s 58 now, and already no Asian leader has served as long — 26 years. Like Egypt, Cambodia holds faux elections, but Hun Sen recently declared: “I don’t just want to weaken the opposition, but to make it die.”

In Thailand, street protests, a coup and court cases have brought frequent changes in leadership. In fact, whoever holds office now lives under the constant threat of massive street protests so that his grip on power remains ever-tenuous. But now Thai and Cambodian leaders, for their own political benefit, are ensuring that the Preah Vihear conflict, more than anything else, continues to animate events in both countries.
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Vietnam, Cambodia strive to complete demarcation

The Yuon and Cambodia friendship is always weird, every cooperation in this friendship is the demanding to Cambodia to part away pieces of land to the Yuon. The border demarcation is about the Yuon digging deep border posts to Cambodian territories.

Vietnamese and Cambodian officials on border issues have affirmed a resolve to complete land border demarcation and landmark erection by 2012 as the two countries’ leaders agreed.

At the fifth round of the Vietnam-Cambodia Joint Committee on Border Demarcation in Phnom Penh on February 24-25, officials agreed to increase cooperation to fulfill six main tasks this year.

The tasks include defining of at least 100 landmark positions, delineating 500km of border line, completing the switch to the UTM map on the 1/50,000 scale from the current use of the Bone map on the 1/100,000 scale, and identification of landmark positions on the map in March.

The two sides also agreed to join hands to fulfill publication of a set of the Vietnam-Cambodia land border terrain maps and speed up compilation of a protocol on land border demarcation between the two countries.

In 2010, the two sides identified 72 positions, built 73 positions and demarcated 155 km of border line.

The Vietnamese delegation to the meeting was led by Ho Xuan Son, Deputy Foreign Minister and head of Vietnam’s Joint Committee on Border Demarcation. The Cambodian delegation was headed by Var Kimhong, Senior Minister and head of Cambodia’s Joint Committee on Border Demarcation.

VOVNews/VNA
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UNESCO special envoy supports bilateral talks to defuse Thai-Cambodian border dispute

BANGKOK, Feb 25 -- The visiting United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) special envoy on Preah Vihear temple Koichiro Matsuura met Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and said he supported the bilateral talks between Thailand and Cambodia to solve border disputes.

Mr Abhisit told reporters after meeting with Mr Matsuura for 45 minutes at Government House that UNESCO had expressed its support to the bilateral talks and would not visit the Preah Vihear temple, a flash point of the conflict between the two countries.

The premier said he believed the tension would be eased at certain level and UNESCO said there should be conclusion on the 4.6 square kilometre contested area near Preah Vihear temple before going to the next step of a management plan for the ancient temple which was listed as a World Heritage Site.

Thailand and Cambodia agreed not to add more problems in the area and UNESCO believes that the problem should be settled before June, whe the World Heritage Committee will meet in Bahrain.

The ASEAN foreign ministers meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, earlier this week agreed that Thailand and Cambodia should use a bilateral mechanism to end their border conflict, including the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission (JBC), the General Border Committee (GBC) and the Regional Border Committee (RBC).

The JBC is expected to be held in March in Indonesia.

Earlier, Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya on Friday met Mr Matsuura, who admitted that [agreeing and implementing] a management plan for the ancient temple would be difficult in the current situation, according to Thai foreign ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi.

Mr Thani, Foreign Ministry Director-General of the Department of Information, said Mr Kasit has taken this opportunity to provide the envoy with the facts relating to the recent border clashes between Thai and Cambodian troops.

Mr Matsuura, a former director-general of UNESCO (1999-2009) and a former chairman of the World Heritage Committee (1999), was appointed by Director General Irina Bokova to discuss with Thailand and Cambodia measures to safeguard the temple, which was listed as a World Heritage site in 2008.

The UNESCO delegation will fly to Phnom Penh on Sunday for talks with Cambodian officials on ways of reducing tension and promoting dialogue on the preservation of the temple.

Tension along the Thai-Cambodian border was renewed after clashes between soldiers of the two countries erupted near the ancient Preah Vihear temple on Feb 4, leading to casualties among troops and civilians of both sides, as well as forcing the evacuation of villagers living in and on both sides of the disputed area. (MCOT online news)
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Cambodia not ready to build chemical or nuclear weapons

Cambodian government reaffirmed Friday that it has banned all kinds of production of chemical and nuclear weapons which is contradictory to international treaty.

In a press statement released after a weekly cabinet meeting, it said a sub-decree with four articles was approved Friday during the meeting at which it is designed to examine the chemical substance which is potential for the production of chemical and nuclear weapons.

The sub-decree regulates the control, management and collection of data on the need of any use of chemical substance which is required by the international convention.

The sub-decree was approved as correlation to the country's constitution.

Cambodia's Constitution, article 54, says that "The manufacturing, use, storage of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons shall be absolutely prohibited."

Cambodia is a signatory and a party to many international conventions and treaties, including the Ottawa Treaty which deals with landmines.

Source: Xinhua .
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Cambodian PM tells troops at border to be high alert and maximum restraints

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday reminded his troops stationed at the frontline of Cambodian-Thai border, especially at the area near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple to be "high alert and utmost restraints" to comply with the permanent ceasefire.

The premier's remark was made during the weekly meeting of the Council of Ministers.

Cambodia and Thailand agreed a permanent ceasefire on Feb. 22 during the meeting of the foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Jakarta, Indonesia.

To monitor the ceasefire, thirty Indonesian observers will be dispatched to the Cambodian-Thai border disputed area.

The two countries has the border conflict just a week after Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple was enlisted as World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008, since then periodic clashes between both sides' troops happened, resulted in the deaths of troops on both sides.

The latest clashes, on Feb. 4-7, had killed and wounded many soldiers and citizens of both sides, and caused tens of thousands of the two countries' villagers nearby the disputed areas fleeing for safe shelters.

Source: Xinhua .
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