The map showing where the fighting on 15th October, 2008 took place. The yellow line is the delimitation line drawn up by Franco-Siamese Commission in the 1907 Franco-Siamese treaty. The red spots with red arrows pointing at them are the sites of the 15th October fighting. Top of the yellow lineis Thailand and bottom of the line is Cambodia, so the fighting took place inside Cambodian territories.
What do people often hear from Thailand saying about Cambodia? Well, Cambodia is known to many Thai people, Thai politicians, Thai intellectuals, and Thai scholars as the “betrayer, the insincere, and the distrustful,” written in their history, published by Thai media, and spoken out by their leaders and remembered in their people’s hearts.
Why are these terminologies used to paint the bad image of Cambodia? Has Thailand historically been affected and suffered by its relations with Cambodia? Yes, as Thailand has always claimed it.
The word which paints Cambodia as “the distrustful” is historically noted to hundreds of year back to the reign of king Naresuan, the king who freed Thailand (Siam) from the Burmese invasion in the 16th century. In the Thai history, it states that, the Khmer betrayed them by taking advantage of Thai weakness during the war with Burma, the Khmer attacked them. This word is thoroughly taught at school and learned and from then on they have labeled the Cambodians as “the distrustful.”
The word “insincere” is newly used after the border conflict between the two countries led to military clashes on 15th October 2008 which is written by Thanida Tansbpapo who raised questions about Phnom Penh’s sincerity in settling the border dispute through diplomacy.
There is still another one which is just recently termed that is, “the betrayal.” The term is painted when Thailand accuses Cambodia of planting new landmines, at the Veal Entry next to Preah Vihear temple which seriously wounded three Thai soldiers, the the betrayal of the Ottawa Conevention, 1997.
Of course, these words sound good to the Thais but they really disturb the Cambodians and they even reflect back to the Thais themselves regarding to history and legality and as reaction to the Thai accusation, the Cambodians always react with the word “thief” or “the ungrateful” to term the Thais, but rarely officially publicized.
Historically, Naresuan was not able to win the war against Burma in his leadership without the full support of Khmer King, Sattha. King Sattha sent his brother, Prince Srisuphanma, to lead troops who were experts of war elephants and martial art to help king Naresuan to fight against the Burmese King Bayinnuang. The war was successfully fought and freed Thailand from Burma. The Khmer Prince pulled the troops back to the Khmer Kingdom after helping Naresuan to win the war and hoped to continue to build peace with Thailand. Yet Naresuan, in stead of being grateful to the Khmer King, was so worried about the Khmer power reemergence, so he ungratefully decided to completely destroy the Khmer might when the Khmer were tired of war after helping Thailand and without preparation. Thai leaders really don’t want this truth be revealed to their next generations being afraid of losing the chance to claim for superiority to the Khmer among their people, condemning from the public or independent scholars, losing political sympathy from the general Thais and most importantly this can play a role as the political instrument in order to inspire and strengthen the spirit of nationalism among the Thai future generations.
Who must be demanded for “sincerity” in the part of Cambodia or Thailand? It would be Cambodia if Cambodia doesn’t respect the 1904 and 1907 Siamese-French treaties and the verdict of International Court of Justice (ICJ), 1962. But the Cambodia does respect these conditions. How about Thailand? As a matter of fact, Thailand must be the one that needs to show its sincerity at the first place because Thailand politically and intentionally shows that it doesn’t respect the 1904 and 1907 Siamese-French treaties, the verdict of ICJ, and the Paris Peace Accord, 1991 which Thailand itself legally recognized and signed and, in addition, it is even invading Cambodia. If Thailand were not a state but just an individual person, such an insult or abuse must be demanded for official apology, compensation, and other kinds of serious punishment according to law should there be any international judgment again.
The world clearly knows that Cambodia is ranked as one of the countries which have the most landmines in the world which planted from the Cambodian war of the 1970s into the 1990s. The landmine areas are geographically and politically marked the existence of Cambodian territory. So how can Thailand come up to such an accusation that Cambodia is the betrayal of the Ottawa Convention, 1997? Is Thailand really ignorant, as some Cambodians say about them, about history? Or is Thailand a perfect pretender?
In Thai territory, landmines do not exist since Thailand is always at peace. So, instead, Thailand should deserve the word “betrayal” or “thief “ named by Cambodia and the world for not respecting the spirit of the Paris Peace Accord, 1991.
Through centuries, Cambodia has been endured through all kinds of attack with both verbal and physical from her neighbors and remarkably Cambodian soft and compromised foreign policy has always been negatively paid back which historically happened with her neighbors.
With Thailand, the Thais always claimed that they helped Cambodia after the fall of the Khmer Empire and from the Pol Pot Regime to the present. How about the Khmers helped them to survive from the Mongolian huntin in the 12th century? How about the Khmer helped them to free from the Burma in the 16th century under the reign of Naresuan and the 18th century during the leadership of Taksin?
After the fall of the Khmer Empire, Thailand never helped Cambodia, but consistently invaded Cambodia in order to take control and compete for power balance against Vietnam.
During the Pol Pot regime, Thailand was not helping Cambodia to survive as they claimed but they helped push Cambodia destructively to die by secretively supporting the genocidal Khmer Rouge (KR) and other guerrilla groups in Cambodia during the1970s and 1980s through financial support and weapon trade, as Morton Abramowitz, former U.S. ambassador to Thailand, said in a 29 May 1994 Washington Post editorial that, “By graft or statecraft, Thailand has become [KR leader] Pol Pot’s best ally.” Interestingly, in April the new strongman in Bangkok, Army Commander Suchinda Krapayoon, told a US senator that he considered Pol Pot a “nice guy,” just as in 1985 the Foreign Minister of the previous dictatorship had described Pol Pot’s deputy, Son Sen, as “a very good man.” So, are all the good Thais in Thailand like Pol Pot and Son Sen? Is that what Thailand calls “help”?
In contradict to the spirit of Asean and United Nations and especially the memorandums and agreements signed by Thailand with its neighbors for respecting each country’s territorial integrity and strengthening friendship, Thailand is treacherously adopt the two-facial policy towards its neighbors as explicitly stated by a senior Thai official with security responsibilities, General Channa Samudvanija, to Milton Osborne, during an extended discussion of Thai-Cambodian relations in 1980 that, in essence, Thai policy towards Cambodia was to support those forces within the country that opposed the existing government. The rationale behind such a policy as the Realpolitik view of seeking to weaken a neighbor with which Thailand had substantial policy differences… According to this, can Cambodia trust Thailand in term of border resolution as it has publicly claimed? It can be trusted only if Thailand show its respect for all treaties it has signed and accepts the international body mediator such as UN or ICJ as proposed by Cambodia.
Respectively, the accusation game must be stopped because it gains for nothing but deepens the conflicts and hatred between the two countries and especially Thailand should take this chance to show the world that it is respecting the 1904 and 1907 Siamese-French treaties, the verdict of International Court of Justice (ICJ), 1962, and the spirit of the Paris Peace Accord, 1991 and withdraws its troops unconditionally from Cambodia. If Thailand can do so, friendship between the two countries will be re-strengthened, hatred will be healed, and accusations will be ended. Then, the two countries will peacefully co-exist.