Wow, HW ~~ I'm embarrassed to say that I knew it was bad, but had no idea of the magnitude.
The way he repeatedly drives home the point about the truth engendering lies is chilling.
Two leading Cambodia scholars, Owen Taylor and Ben Kiernan, point out that when the intense US bombing of rural Cambodia began, the Khmer Rouge were a small group of perhaps 10,000. Within a few years, the KR had grown to a huge army of some 200,000, deeply embittered and seeking revenge. Their recruitment propaganda successful highlighted the US bombing. Pentagon records reveal that the tonnage of bombs released on rural Cambodia was about the same as total US bombing in the Pacific during World War II, and of course far more intense.
One of the first things that I learned on my first trip to Cambodia is that it has the highest percentage of amputees in the world, due to the war. The jungles and fields are still full of millions of unexploded mines and bombs that the children and farmers have a knack for finding at the wrong time.
Yes, look at the graphic on the page. It shows the areas that were bombed by B52s. While initially they did bomb the Ho Chi Minh Trail (Which didn't go through Vietnam but through Laos and Cambodia mostly) the did bomb as far northwest as Siem Reap.
It's unbelievable how much they dropped. In an undeclared war. The PM recently asked the US government to waive the debts that the pre- KR regimes ran up (Sihanouk's and Lon Nol's) and they refused. That is something they really should reconsider.
Here's a bit more in- depth stuff re my last paragraph above:
Relations with US snagged over debt issue
DESPITE signs of progress in areas ranging from military cooperation to development aid, comments in recent weeks from Cambodian and American officials underscore the fact that bilateral relations remain snagged on an issue some three decades old: Cambodia’s wartime debt.
Before the US-ASEAN summit two weeks ago, Prime Minister Hun Sen called upon the United States to cancel the debt, calling it “dirty”. But a US State Department official said last week the US would not do so for fear of setting a “bad precedent” for countries in similar positions.
The principal sum of the debt, according to the US State Department and the International Monetary Fund, is US$162 million for shipments of cotton, rice, wheat flour and other agricultural commodities in the 1970s. Interest has ballooned the total debt to $445 million.
The Kingdom had an overall debt burden of $3.2 billion in 2009, according to the IMF, which noted in an assessment that year that Cambodia is at “moderate risk of debt distress”.
In congressional testimony Friday, Joe Yun, deputy assistant secretary for the US state department’s bureau of East Asian and Pacific affairs, said the US would not forgive Cambodia’s debt because it considers Cambodia both able to pay and obligated to do so under international law.
Officials at the Ministry of Economy and Finance did not respond this week to requests for comment about the debt.
Beyond the debt issue, Yun observed a “generally positive trend” in bilateral relations in his remarks last week, noting that the US has been Cambodia’s top trading partner since 1998. Moreover, under President Barack Obama, he said, the US would provide US$72 million to Cambodia this year, making it the fourth-largest recipient of foreign aid in the East Asia-Pacific region. But the debt could be a “spoiler” in the countries’ relationship, said Carlyle Thayer, a professor at the Australian Defense Force Academy who called on the US to forgive it.
Cambodia incurred the debt under Lon Nol, who came to power in a 1970 coup d’etat. The US subsequently supported Lon Nol with economic, food and military aid, including an infamous bombing campaign.
Historians have long said that the bombs, believed to have killed tens of thousands of civilians while devastating the Cambodian countryside, may have slowed the Khmer Rouge in the short term, but also likely strengthened them as well.
Kenton Clymer, a professor at Northern Illinois University and an expert on US-Cambodia relations, said in an email yesterday that a reduction of the debt would be appropriate in view of the countries’ tumultuous history. “I suspect that the American legal position is correct, that a change of government does not relieve a country of previous debts. On the other hand, US bombing of Cambodia and American policy during the Khmer Republic did help create conditions that made a Khmer Rouge victory more likely,” Clymer said.
The US dropped 2,756,941 tons of ordnance in Cambodia, according to historians Ben Kiernan and Owen Taylor. William Shawcross put the cost of the bombing at $7 billion.
But an argument based on the historical injustice of the debt in view of the American legacy in the region was “not going to work politically” in negotiations with the US, Thayer said.
Phay Siphan, a spokesman for the Council of Ministers, indicated yesterday that the government viewed debt forgiveness as a potential way to move beyond their contentious past.
“We don’t want to put the blame and point a figure at each other,” he said. “Right now we have a new chapter.”
1. Hillary Clinton has just visited the Kingdom and has indicated further negotiations would be welcome.
Clinton flags Lon Nol debt negotiations
United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that Washington would dispatch a “team of experts” to resolve the long-standing issue of the Kingdom’s Lon Nol-era debt to the US as she completed her two-day visit to Cambodia. Following a meeting with Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, America’s top diplomat said the debt required “immediate attention”, and that she would move the issue “up the ladder of priorities” for Washington.
“There have been no discussions since 2006 at all, and we think it’s time for our experts to meet and explore a broad range of potential areas for settling of this debt,” Clinton said.
“It is a concern that it has not been even addressed, and I would like to see us make it a priority, and [Hor Namhong] has agreed, so we will begin to work on that together.”
Clinton said she had “no preconceived notion” of how the matter would be resolved, but told students at a town hall meeting that repayment could perhaps be redirected to priority sectors in the Kingdom.
“You could have some repayment, you could have debt for nature, you could have debt for education,” she said. “There are things that the government of Cambodia could do that would satisfy the need to demonstrate some level of accountability but, more importantly, to invest those funds in the needs of the people of Cambodia.”
The Kingdom has long called for the US to cancel its Lon Nol-era debt, which now stands at US$445 million with interest.
In a speech in September, Prime Minister Hun Sen called the sum a “dirty debt” that was used to fund bombs “dropped on our heads” in the early 1970s by US forces.
“We requested that this debt be resolved through two agreements. One is an agreement reached through Paris Club principles,” Hor Namhong said, referring to the association of economic officials from developed countries who work to relieve or restructure sovereign debts. “Second is an agreement to resolve the debt by transferring it to development.”
Clinton arrived in the Kingdom as part of a region-wide trip that has also taken her to China and to Vietnam for last week’s ASEAN summit.
She said her visit to Cambodia was the result of a commitment “to restoring America to a high level of engagement in the Asia-Pacific region”.
Asked at the meeting about the rising Chinese influence in Cambodia, Clinton warned the Kingdom not to become too dependent on Beijing and said it was “smart for Cambodia to be friends with many countries”.
“China is a great country and has an exciting future,” she said. “There are certainly many reasons for Cambodia to have a good relationship with China. I think there are also important issues that Cambodia must raise with China.”
Wu Bangguo, chairman of the standing committee of China’s national people’s congress, will arrive in Cambodia for a four-day visit Wednesday, Chinese embassy spokesman Qian Hai said.
The visit follows Hor Namhong’s announcement on Sunday that China had promised to support the construction of a $600 million rail link between Cambodia and Vietnam.
In addition to her meeting with Hor Namhong, Clinton also met Hun Sen, King Norodom Sihamoni and opposition leaders. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY THOMAS MILLER
2. New problems on the Viet border:
Border dispute: Farmers claim new land losses
MORE than 200 villagers from Kampong Cham province have thumbprinted a document accusing Vietnamese authorities of encroaching on their fields in Memot district.
Sum Sarith, a representative from Da commune’s Da Kandaul village, said yesterday that around 260 people had signed the complaint, which they planned to file to the National Assembly, civil society groups and the government’s border demarcation committee.
Var Kimhong, senior minister in charge of border affairs, dismissed the complaint, saying the Da commune chief was aligned with the opposition party and had probably incited farmers to petition the government.
“They have already been told, if they just planted posts it does not mean [the farmers] lose anything. They allow people to farm the same,” he said.
I'd say it means that the land is being claimed by Vietnamese authorities, but that those authorities are "allowing" the farmers to farm on what had been their own land, so the farmers should just roll over and accept the seizing of their lands.
Kem Sokha, the president of the opposition Human Rights Party, has said he will not ally himself with returned royalist leader and former party colleague Prince Norodom Ranariddh, questioning the extent of his political independence.
Speaking to reporters at the HRP’s Phnom Penh headquarters, he called on the prince to clarify his political stance towards the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, with which Ranariddh has said he will seek a coalition deal.
“So long as the prince does not clearly show his stance, whether he is on the side of the democrats or on the side of the absolute communists … we will not open negotiations to merge with NRP,” Kem Sokha said.
Ranariddh formally announced his return to political life on Saturday, at the head of the newly renamed Norodom Ranariddh Party. He has called for the formation of a reunified royalist party – to be known as Funcinpec 81 – and expressed his interest in entering into a coalition with the CPP following the 2013 national election.
The prince, who led Funcinpec to victory in the United Nations-backed 1993 elections, was kicked out of the party in 2006 in connection with accusations of embezzlement and retired from politics two years later....read the full story in tomorrow’s Phnom Penh Post or see the updated story online from 3PM UTC/GMT +7 hours.
More paranoia, this time between the two Korean communities:
Big trouble in little Korea
Political tensions are on the boil in Korean eateries throughout Cambodia, amid reports the South Korean Embassy in Phnom Penh has urged its citizens to steer clear of the country’s North Korean government-run restaurants.
South Korean daily Chosun Ilbo reported on Monday that the embassy had asked tour agencies and residents’ associations to avoid patronising the restaurants after the DPRK’s alleged sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in March last year.
Park Jeong-yeon, general manager of the Phnom Penh branch of the Korean Association in Cambodia, confirmed the South Korean Embassy had “recommended” to tour agencies that they take tour groups elsewhere.
“Last year, the Korean warship was shot down by the North Koreans,” he said. “After then, the Embassy of [South] Korea in Cambodia recommended to Korean restaurants and tourist agencies not to go to North Korean restaurants.”
Since the sinking of the Cheonan, and North Korea’s apparently unprovoked shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in November 2010, relations between the two states have worsened. Park said the association has been campaigning for South Koreans to boycott North Korean restaurants “for years” in response to the DPRK regime’s belligerent behaviour.
The northern regime operates two restaurants in Siem Reap and one in Phnom Penh, part of a worldwide chain of eateries that funnels cash back to the government coffers in Pyongyang.
At the establishments, patrons can tuck into homely northern fare – including Pyongyang cold noodles – and enjoy dance and music performances by troupes of North Korean-born waitresses, who are carefully selected and trained for work abroad.
Following the sinking of the Cheonan and the attack on Yeonpyeong Island, however, Park Jeong-yeon said the KAC distributed signs and stickers to Korean restaurants throughout Phnom Penh, condemning the DPRK’s actions and urging Korean residents to avoid the eateries.
One sticker proclaimed, “We, Korean residents, don’t go to North Korean restaurants.” Another poster, a resolution condemning the sinking of the Cheonan, was also distributed.
Kimchi conflict One Korean restaurant owner in Phnom Penh claims he was threatened and intimidated by North Korean authorities displaying the association’s material.
The restaurant owner, who did not wish to be named, said that around six months ago, three men came to his restaurant and started taking pictures. The men then tore the stickers from the toilets and removed an anti-DPRK poster from a board outside the eatery.
“They said they were taking orders from the North Korean Embassy. The North Korean Embassy told them to take pictures and take the [sign],” he said.
“My mother said ‘Stop, stop, stop’. Then they pointed their finger at my mother and I thought my mother was very scared of their strength. I thought that they would use their strength on my mother.”
The restaurant owner has since posted a new sign printed by the Korean Association, dated November 25 – two days after the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island – denouncing Pyongyang for trying to provoke a war between the two nations.
A spokesman for the South Korean embassy, who gave his name only as Yun, confirmed the Korean restaurant owner’s story.
“The Embassy understands the incident in Phnom Penh involving North Koreans is under investigation by the relevant authority of the Cambodian government,” he said via email.
Chosun Ilbo reported a similar incident at a restaurant in Siem Reap last month, where seven people “who appeared to be North Korean agents” allegedly tore down a sign criticising the North Korean military attacks.
Yun denied, however, that the embassy had encouraged South Korean citizens to boycott North Korean restaurants.
“The recent actions, including the boycott of North Korean restaurants, were completely voluntary decisions by the Korean citizens in Siem Reap, to express their regret over the North Korean provocations and take care of the safety and security of Korean tourists,” he said.
Park Jeong-yeon said that the South Korean Embassy remained concerned about South Koreans visiting restaurants run by the DPRK.
“The Embassy worries that people going to the restaurants will give information to the people who run the restaurants and they will educate [South Korean] people about ideology,” he said.
The North Korean Embassy in Phnom Penh could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. Staff at Pyongyang Restaurant, the North Korean establishment on Monivong Boulevard, also could not be reached.
Lean cuisine Since the opening of the first North Korean restaurant in Siem Reap in 2002, similar eateries have sprouted across China and Southeast Asia, giving tourists a fleeting taste of life north of the 38th parallel.
The restaurants, though owned and operated by the DPRK, are patronised largely by South Korean tourists and expatriates.
Journalist Bertil Lintner, author of Great Leader, Dear Leader: Demystifying North Korean Under the Kim Clan, told The Post in 2009 that in the early 1990s, when both the Soviet Union and China began demanding that Pyongyang pay for goods in hard currency rather than barter goods, the DPRK was forced to open “capitalist” foreign ventures to make up funding shortfalls.
“The restaurants were used to earn additional money for the government in Pyongyang – at the same time as they were suspected of laundering proceeds from North Korea’s more unsavoury commercial activities,” Lintner said.
“Restaurants and other cash-intensive enterprises are commonly used as conduits for wads of bills, which banks otherwise would not accept as deposits.”
The Post reported in June 2009 that Pyongyang Restaurant in Phnom Penh, which opened in 2003, may have been hit hard by the global economic downturn.
According to Chosun Ilbo, around 120,000 South Koreans visit the two restaurants in Siem Reap each year, contributing an estimated 200-300 million won (US$179,000-269,000) to the North Korean regime.
However, the report suggests that the restaurants are suffering because of South Korean boycotts and that musical and dance performances by North Korean waitresses have been cancelled.
Though relations between the two Koreas seem to have warmed in recent weeks – on Tuesday Pyongyang restored a cross-border diplomatic “hot-line” between the two countries – recent events show that a culinary armistice may be some way off.
rime Minister Hun Sen defended his oldest son’s recent military promotion and lashed out at opponents suggesting a Tunisia-style revolution could come to the Kingdom in a characteristically wide-ranging address in Kampong Cham province today.
Speaking at an inauguration ceremony for a new building at the Kampong Cham provincial hospital, the premier said 33-year-old Hun Manet, promoted to a rank of two-star general in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces earlier this month, was well-qualified to serve in his new position.
“He has been military age for 16 years already,” Hun Sen said. “The military is obliged to promote in accordance with its internal framework.”
At a ceremony at the Ministry of Defence on January 3, Hun Manet became a two-star general and deputy commander-in-chief of the RCAF infantry.
He is also director of the anti-terrorism department at the Ministry of Defence and was promoted in September to deputy commander of his father’s bodyguard unit.
Hun Manet has long been groomed for an apparent leadership role.
He graduated in 1999 from the United States Military Academy at West Point, where his education was financed by the American government, according to The Associated Press.
He was reportedly granted one of the 10 spots that are reserved for foreign students at the military academy each year, later going on to earn a PhD in economics at Bristol University in the United Kingdom.
“Why develop human resources if you don’t put them to good use?” Hun Sen said today.
“What are we training our children for?”
At the promotion ceremony this month, Defence Minister Tea Banh, too, lauded the young officer’s credentials, pointing in particular to his West Point education.
“This school is recognised internationally for its distinction in political science, law and military affairs, and in his new position, Manet must use the skills he has learned,” Tea Banh said.
“We have to let the younger generation take over our work and ensure that our achievements are protected and that forces of evil who want to destroy our achievements are stopped.”
Hun Sen has previously stated that he does not want his son to enter politics in the future, claiming Hun Manet will instead focus on charity work and his military obligations.
Some observers, however, have seen Hun Manet’s swift rise through the army ranks as a sign that he is the chosen successor of his strongman father.
“Dynasties of this kind have happened,” said Son Soubert, a former member of the Constitutional Council.
“As for qualifications, he may be better than any other Cambodian high-ranking military [officers],” Son Soubert added. “Of course, it can be viewed as nepotism because he is the son of the prime minister, and other Cambodian citizens should be entitled to be sent to West Point.”
Another ruling party scion, Sar Sokha, is set to be promoted to the position of Phnom Penh municipal deputy police chief today in a ceremony at police headquarters in the capital, Phnom Penh deputy police chief Ben Rath said today.
Sar Sokha is the son of Interior Minister Sar Kheng.
Also today, Hun Sen lashed out an unnamed critic that he said had advocated a popular revolution in Cambodia on the model of Tunisia, where rioting and protests forced out long-time ruler Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali last week.
“There is a guy saying that Cambodia should foment a Tunisia style-revolt. I would like to send you a message that if you provoke or foment a Tunisia style-revolt, I will close the door to beat the dog this time,” Hun Sen said, arguing that the North African nation faces “the prospect of civil war” as it attempts to hold together its fragile interim government.
“This guy, if he enters Cambodia, will face arrest. This guy has a bald head. This guy says Cambodia should look to the style of Tunisia: if you dare to gather [the people] to do that please come, don’t say such silly words … I will beat you on the head.”
It was not clear to whom the prime minister was referring. ADDITIIONAL REPORTING BY MEAS SOKCHEA AND JAMES O’TOOLE
A small temple near the border flies the Cambodian flag next to several Buddhist flags. The Thais want that flag lowered because they claim the temple was built on 'disputed' territory (not Thai territory, mind you). They've also started military exercises in the area.
See the different reactions in the two concerned countries, one article by the PP Post, one by the Bangkok Post.
Bid to damp down border tension
Military commanders from Cambodia and Thailand held meetings along the border today in a bid to defuse a spike in military tensions, a military official said.
In recent days, Cambodia has deployed infantry, tanks and heavy artillery along the Thai border in response to a demand from Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva that Cambodian flags be removed from Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvara, a pagoda close to Preah Vihear.
A Royal Cambodian Armed Forces official based at Preah Vihear, who declined to be named, said today that military commanders based at Phnom Trop and Ta Thav met to affirm their positions and damp down tensions.
“The situation is fragile, as troops from both sides are on alert,” he said, adding: “We have reinforced our troops only for defending our territory.”
The official said that during the talks, Thai commanders asked why Cambodia had moved troops into border areas.
The Cambodian commanders said the movements were in response to Abhisit’s demands for the removal of the flags, as well as the apparent Thai plans to hold military exercises close to the border.
“We will not allow them to enter Cambodian soil to remove the flags,” the official said. “Thailand has added troops and heavy weapons along the border and we have acted in kind.”
Srey Doek, military commander of RCAF Military Division 3 based at Preah Vihear, declined to comment.
Thai Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said today that the fresh deployments of Cambodian troops and armour in border areas adjoining Sisaket province were no cause for worry, the Bangkok Post reported.
“I believe there are no serious problems on the Thai-Cambodian border,” Prawit said.
“The Foreign Ministry should be able settle the dispute through talks.”
The military talks come a day ahead of the trial at Phnom Penh Municipal Court of Veera Somkwamkid, a high-profile Thai Yellow Shirt activist, and his secretary Ratree Taiputana Taiboon.
The pair were part of a group of seven Thais who were arrested for trespassing on Cambodian territory in Banteay Meanchey province on December 29.
The group reportedly travelled to the border to “investigate” the demarcation of the countries’ shared border.
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, who met with Yellow Shirt representatives today in Phnom Penh, confirmed that Veera will face court today.
He added that he was powerless to act on requests that he intervene to free the two defendants.
“We cannot do anything before the court proceeding as it is illegal,” he said.
“The government cannot interfere with the court’s affairs.”
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is insisting that any Cambodian flag flying above disputed areas must be removed, despite Phnom Penh denouncing the call as "insulting and unacceptable".
The Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a statement criticising Mr Abhisit's demand, saying the call, in parallel with Thai military exercises last week near the border, was provocative.
Mr Abhisit called for the removal of the Cambodian flags yesterday during his weekly radio and television address.
Cambodia is flying its national flag near Wat Kaew Sikha Khiri Sawara temple in the disputed 4.6-square-kilometre area near Preah Vihear temple.
Mr Abhisit said the area did not belong to Cambodia and ordered the Thai Foreign Affairs Ministry to protest against Cambodia's announcement that he had violated its sovereignty by ordering the removal of the flag.
The prime minister also reaffirmed yesterday that he would not meet the demands of the People's Alliance for Democracy, which is protesting against the government's handling of the border row.
The PAD is calling on the government to revoke the 2000 memorandum of understanding between Thailand and Cambodia that governs the countries' boundary quarrel, to withdraw from the World Heritage Committee, and to expel Cambodian people from the disputed area.
Mr Abhisit said it was a misunderstanding that the border agreement allowed Cambodia to encroach on Thai territory. He said the memorandum prohibited either country from further intruding on the other's land.
He denied the agreement put Thailand at a disadvantage or meant that Thailand accepted a 1:200,000 border map used by Cambodia. He insisted the memo was drawn up in line with international principles and could help prevent the disagreement escalating into war.
As for the membership of the World Heritage Committee, Mr Abhisit said the past government of Thailand allowed Cambodia to have the Preah Vihear temple listed as a world heritage site, while his government had resisted Cambodia's desire to manage the temple as a world heritage site alone.
Regarding the expulsion of Cambodian people from the disputed area, the prime minister said such a move could trigger retaliations.
The secretary to the foreign minister, Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, said yesterday the Foreign Ministry would issue a letter of protest against Cambodia's statement accusing Mr Abhisit of violating its sovereignty.
"We should help each other avoid conflicts and should not issue any statement that will lead to more conflicts and confusion," he said.
And this is what Thai locals are saying of one particular part of the border where seven ultra- nationalist Thais were arrested by Cambodian authorities in December:
Border Villagers Counter Territorial Claim
A group of villagers from the Thai-Cambodian border meets the prime minister to present information that contradicts the claim made by the People's Alliance for Democracy.
They say the area where the seven Thais were arrested was well within the Cambodian territory.
A dozen of people from Nong Jan village in Sa Kaew's Kok Sung district met with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva at Government House earlier today.
They discussed with the premier problems concerning their farmland near the Thai-Cambodian border where seven Thais were arrested for alleged encroachment on Cambodian territory.
After the meeting, one of the villagers, Thara Silawieng, said the pond built by the United Nations to accommodate the Cambodian refugees decades ago is on the Cambodia soil.
He claimed his neighbors, who earlier took to the People's Alliance for Democracy's rally stage, were wrong.
Thara claimed the villagers had to say the pond is on the Thai soil because they wanted to lay claim on the farmland.
He explained that the land plots on their tittle deeds overlap with Cambodia's territory.
So far, it remains unclear who has sovereignty over the area.
Thara also quoted the prime minister as saying that the resolution to border disputes with Cambodia will continue to be based on the memorandum of understanding signed in 2000 between the two countries and made through the Joint Border Committee.
Thara also urged the protesters to place their priority on the peace and safety of Thai villagers living along the Thai-Cambodian border.
- The hidden oil deposits are in the gulf of Thailand, the sea border hasn't been demarcated there either and all this posturing in the north is seen by some as a preliminary round. - Standard practice when you have internal problems, look for an international issue that'll unify the people. - The Thais have been treating the Cambodians like animals for 500 years, why change now?
It's sickening to see the unelected Thai PM (instated by the military) conspiring with the TPN (ultra nationalistic wing of the already nationalistic PAD) preparing for elections at the end of this year. Because that's all this is about. He'll lose if there's no war.
This is the attitude frequently shown by Thais towards Cambodians:
Thai army spokesman: We are just taking it easier with our inferior neighbour
As part of the “let’s-continue-to-insult-our-neighbour-meme”, army spokesman wins the award with his latest statement on Thai PBS last night as reported by Nation Channel who quotes Col. Sansern as stating that he understands now that the Defence Minister and the PM are aware of the situation and he affirms that the response is an army response only and there is not air response.
He believes that there will be losses for sure, but has yet to receive a report. He reiterates that Thailand is responding proportionately. We don’t want it to be heavy as we are afraid of rumors that we are bullying an inferior neighbour because we have greater/superior capabilities
BP: One can believe that the Thais have a superior military, but at a time when things are tense should you really be calling your neighbor “inferior”? A diplomat Col. Sansern is not… The disturbing thing is that he may not even be aware he is insulting the Cambodians…
btw, who exactly would have come up with that rumor? He just states it unprompted…
The United Nations is apparently ‘deeply concerned’ about the latest dustup between Thailand and Cambodia along their well-defined border and the 1000-year-old temple at Preah Vihear. Well, it should be.
Veterans of the current dispute and the anti-Thai riots that tore Phnom Penh apart back in 2003 know only too well how fast a scenario like this border clash can escalate. Both sides are being economical with the casualty figures. It might be five dead, it could be as high as 50.
Some outside help would be welcome, and Cambodian Prime Minister Iron Sen has asked for intervention from the UN Security Council, where his country can probably count on support from old allies China and Russia, France—who helped draw the boundary—and the United States.
But to date, all he’s received is a statement from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that had about as much clout as a damp squib: ‘The secretary general appeals to both sides to put in place an effective arrangement for cessation of hostilities and to exercise maximum restraints.’
Diplomats in Bangkok and Phnom Penh were no doubt shaking in their boots.The Thais were so bold as to say: ‘If there is a complaint, we are ready to explain.’
The United Nations has a long and illustrious history of appeasement that ends up solving little. Its efforts in Somalia, the Balkans and its inability to disarm the warring factions in Cambodia in the 1990s were among its less illustrious adventures. And its continued recognition of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge as the legitimate leadership in then-Kampuchea for more than a decade after their great atrocities were committed still sticks in the gullet of many Cambodians.
The problem for UN appeasement is the border area is well defined by internationally accepted maps and easily checked with global positioning systems or GPS. The Thais don’t like this. But no matter how Thailand argues its side, the Cambodians have several international agreements that date back more than 100 years, a decision by the International Court of Justice, history and common sense on their side.
Bangkok is going to find it extremely difficult to find any country willing to back it, particularly given the substance attached to The Treaty of Washington, written in the aftermath World War II when Thailand sided with Japan and invaded and occupied large parts of Cambodia and Laos.
Under the treaty, Bangkok agreed to withdraw to the pre-war boundaries as part of a deal that basically absolved it of any war crimes committed while it was aligned with the Axis powers. It wasn’t until 1954 that Thailand disputed Cambodian sovereignty over Preah Vihear for the first time. That went to the international court, which six years later ruled against Thailand.
From the late 1970s to 1990s, the temple was a favourite haunt of the Khmer Rouge, another charming bunch of characters the government in Thailand had aligned itself with, following Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia in 1979 that ended another well-documented madness.
Nobody in Thailand was remotely interested in challenging the already lost cause of the Hindu temple at Preah Vihear when the area was providing a handy a hideout for Pol Pot and his ultra-Maoists. However, problems at home and peace in Cambodia made an old chestnut out of Preah Vihear—a convenient excuse among extreme nationalists with a selective sense of history and a political agenda.
This was all the more so when UNESCO declared Preah Vihear a Cambodian World Heritage Site in July 2008.As a result, the latest bout of fighting has entered its fifth day and revealed one or two prejudices along the way, such as the few choice words from Thailand’s army spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd.
In blaming the Cambodians for starting the attack, Sansern maintained the Thai response was proportionate, the defence minister and prime minister are well aware of the situation and that: ‘We are afraid of rumours that we are bullying an inferior neighbour because we have superior capabilities.’
The UN’s damp squib offered Cambodia little, and it might be all the world body can afford Thailand.
All the info in a nutshell. Some of the myths re undemarcated borders are disspelled and Thailand is finally acknowledged as the aggressor, in spite of its wonderful marketing campaigns and 'Land of Smiles' image.
When I was publisher and editor-in-chief of The Phnom Penh Post I was sued once by then-Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, accused of spreading disinformation and trying to create political instability. Over the years, several Cambodian government officials even accused me and my newspaper of attempting to “destroy the nation”.
At the very least I’ve never been called a spin doctor for the Cambodian government. But on the issue of the current border dispute between Cambodia and Thailand surrounding Wat Preah Vihear, I’m as angry as all Cambodians are at what we perceive as a Thai-initiated conflict of grossly unjust proportions.
We are not alone. Since this issue flared up two years ago, I have not met one Asian or Western diplomat, one foreign aid worker or one expatriate businessman in Phnom Penh who disagrees. Even a few Thai friends have sheepishly expressed support for the Cambodian side on this spat.
The nagging question that perplexes us all 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.
The view from Cambodia is simple: the issue of sovereignty over the temple was decided back 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, when Thailand says: Well, we controlled the temple in the 1800s and before, the Khmers have a simpler reply: 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. Thank you very much. End of story.
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. Every dollar spent on the military conflict there is a dollar lost for building desperately needed roads, schools and hospitals.
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 metre of land from any of its neighbours. 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.
If there is one thing that is clear, it is that the entire border needs to be systematically surveyed and demarcated, step by step, once and for all.
As for the disputed 4.5 square kilometres just north of the temple, why not consider this: Turn the area into the Cambodian-Thai International Friendship Park and set it up as a jointly managed enterprise by both countries’ Ministries of Tourism. Invite in hawkers, entrepreneurs, whatever, from both sides of the border to set up businesses to cater to the millions of tourists who will want to visit the site in the coming decades and beyond. Tax revenues could be shared by both nations equally. Everybody wins.
It could also be a model for other border disputes around the globe.
If the Thais want a protracted, bloody fight on their hands over the temple, they’ve got one. In the 20 years I’ve been in Cambodia the Preah Vihear issue is without question the only one I’ve seen that has united the entire nation. Cambodian TV stations have been running fundraisers off and on with donations large and small pouring in from all quarters for two years. Even the normally truculent Sam Rainsy Party and others in the opposition are fully on board.
It’s clear from a visit to the temple last week that the Cambodian military has dug in for the long haul. New heavy tanks, armoured personnel carriers and ammunition “donated by friendly countries” are evident all over the base of the escarpment. Battle-scarred veterans, no doubt from all of Cambodia’s four previously warring factions and including ex-Khmer Rouge who controlled the temple from 1975 to 1998, are now all operating under one flag.
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. What government in Phnom Penh could allow that?
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. Cooler heads need to prevail, but rest assured the Cambodians will never, no matter what the price, give up control of Wat Preah Vihear.
I think that we should go back to the pre-WW1 system where certain areas were just decreed "international zones" under the control of an administrative committee. There are other places like the 'holy' sites of Jerusalem which could definitely benefit from this.
Thai Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha has reportedly backed out of attending a proposed meeting with Cambodian officials in Indonesia next month aimed at easing tensions between the two countries following their deadly military clashes in February.
The Bangkok Post reported yesterday that Prayuth said he and other military leaders had decided not to attend the meeting because they believe the ongoing border dispute with Cambodia should only be settled in a bilateral forum.
“We won’t go. We don’t want the meeting to be held in a third country,” Prayuth reportedly said. “Soldiers of the two countries are very close to each other. Talks should be between soldiers of the two countries only, and a third party should not be involved.”
Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said yesterday evening that his office was in the process of “verifying the report” with the military, declining to comment further.
The proposed talks, scheduled for April 7-8 in Indonesia, follow four days of fighting between the two sides in February along the border near Preah Vihear temple that left at least 10 people dead, dozens injured and thousands of civilians displaced. Cambodia and Thailand subsequently appeared before the United Nations Security Council and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in relation to the dispute, with both bodies ultimately endorsing mediation by current ASEAN chair Indonesia.
Earlier this month, Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva reportedly expressed support for the talks in Indonesia, which Cambodian officials had already agreed to attend.
“I hope the meeting will help ease tension between the two countries,” Abhisit said, according to the Bangkok Post.
Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Cambodian Foreign Ministry, said Prayuth’s reported rejection of the talks showed “the unfaithfulness of Thailand”.
“We will wait to see the stance of Indonesia, the chair of ASEAN,” Koy Kuong said.
Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat said Cambodian officials were “disappointed” by the Thai military’s announcement.
“This shows that they do not respect the decisions of the United Nations and the ASEAN foreign ministers,” he said.
Thai defence minister Prawit Wongsuwon has also decided not to attend the meeting in Indonesia, the Bangkok Post said, citing an anonymous source within the ministry.
The reported moves raise questions about the control the current Thai government has over its military following Abhisit’s recent announcement that national elections will be held within the next few months. The issue is especially sensitive in a country that has repeatedly been subject to military coups over the past few decades, most recently in 2006.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SAM RITH AND JAMES O’TOOLE
King Bhumibol Adulyadej won't last much longer. I wonder what will become of Thailand afterwards.
I didn't realize that he is obviously fluent in French until I read this (or that he was born in the United States!):
Bhumibol was born at the Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the United States on 5 December 1927. He was the younger son of HRH Prince Mahidol Adulyadej and Mom Sangwal (later HRH Princess Srinagarindra, the Princess Mother: Somdej Phra Sri Nakarindhara Boromaratchachonnani). His name, Bhumibol Adulyadej, means "Strength of the Land, Incomparable Power".
Bhumibol came to Thailand in 1928, after Prince Mahidol obtained a certificate in the Public Health programme at Harvard University. He briefly attended Mater Dei school in Bangkok but in 1933 his mother took the family to Switzerland, where he continued his education at the Ecole Nouvelle de la Suisse Romande in Lausanne. He received the baccalauréat des lettres (high-school diploma with major in French literature, Latin, and Greek) from the Gymnase Classique Cantonal of Lausanne, and by 1945 had begun studying science at the University of Lausanne, when World War II ended and the family returned to Thailand.