By The Nation
Published on February 19, 2011
Phu Makhua has caught the media limelight since it became a clash point between Thai and Cambodian soldiers early this month
The border skirmishes caused casualties and sent thousands of people fleeing for safety.
Locals along the borderline have known the Phu Makhua very well.
It is a mountain full of stripe eggplant during rainy season. The plant, known as "makhua lai" in Thai, has given the mountain its name.
Phu Makhua is located in a disputed area near Wat Keow Sikha Kiri Svara and the Preah Vihear Temple. Thai rangers used to have a base on Phu Makhua but abandoned it about a decade ago for unknown reasons.
Cambodian troops have clearly marked Phu Makhua as a strategic location. This explains why Cambodia has installed iron ladders with more than 900 steps for its troops to climb up to the top of Phu Makhua. Cambodia has also constructed a system for two makeshift cable cars for the purpose of carrying its troops and military supplies up to the mountaintop.
The cable-car system is on a spot known among Thai soldiers as "hua doh". Thai villagers have called the spot "pa lan tham phra" because it is a quite spacious stone yard.
Presently, some 1,600 troops from a Cambodia's special-warfare unit are now deployed at Phu Makhua. This is in addition to a military unit widely known as Hun Sen's loyal bodyguards. Members of this unit are war orphans supported by Hun Sen. They are thus very loyal to Hun Sen and his family. This unit is now under the supervision of Hun Sen's beloved son, Hun Manet.
These soldiers are on top of troops positioned on the frontline.
Cambodia, moreover, is now clearing way for its plan to construct a road that will run from Komui village of Cambodia's Preah Vihear province to Phu Makhua, and to the Preah Vihear Temple.
The construction of the road is now 70-per-cent complete.
The new road is clearly a strategic route for military operations. Many of Cambodia's military bases will enjoy access to this road.
The road is also part of Cambodia's management plan for the Preah Vihear Temple complex, which it hopes the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) will approve.
The management plan follows the Unesco decision to inscribe the ancient Hindu temple as a world-heritage site in Cambodia three years ago.
Since Cambodia unilaterally sought the inscription, border tension has intensified. Thailand has now objected to the management plan proposed by Cambodia with the argument that some parts of the Preah Vihear complex are located on Thai soil.