Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Displaced villagers in a temporary shelter after fleeing their homes near the Preah Vihear Temple.
Wednesday, 16 February 2011 15:00 Ek Madra
Thailand claimed that Cambodia attacked first when hostilities broke out 10 days ago at the Preah Vihear Temple region. Thailand also claimed, via its premier, that Cambodia positioned troops at the world heritage site of Preah Vihear.
Fact or fiction?
Thailand’s GDP for 2010 at constant prices was estimated at US$580.3 billion. The population of Thailand in 2010 was estimated at 67.7 million. The country has a land mass of 513,120 square kilometres. And armed forces, including paramilitaries, as of 2008 were at 665,000, including modern main battle tanks, F16 fighter jets and attack helicopters as well as naval units.
Cambodia’s GDP was US$29.5 billion. Cambodia has a population of 14 million people and its land area is 181,035 square kilometers. Its armed forces number approximately 100,000, and it has a virtually non-existent air force and naval units.
Given the above, would anyone of a sane and rational mind ever belief what Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva alleged – that Cambodia attacked the Thai military and civilian units across the tenacious border of Preah Vihear over four consecutive days in early February?
Is this logical for Cambodia to actually mount an offensive against Thailand as claimed and foolishly alleged by Thailand? Cambodia is a vastly smaller neighbour, struggling to build its economy, build infrastructure and bring basic amenities to her people.
On the contrary, it would be outrageous, ridiculous and even outright stupid for Cambodia to launch any offensive against Thailand in the battle field as it is outnumbered in every single aspect of the armed forces – from the military to the air force, to the navy and to the paramilitary and even the civilian police force.
In the absence of an air force, attack helicopters, modern main battle tanks, an inadequate supply base and nightmarish logistics, no one ever believed Cambodia is capable of mounting any form of attack against Thailand.
Cambodia, which emerged from three decades of civil war from 1970-1998 during which her infrastructures were devastated and tens of thousands of people were killed, is tired of fighting.
It is clear and evident that Thai premier Abhisit, fearing an international public relations nightmare and a highly likely scenario of being sanctioned by the UNSC, ASEAN, UNESCO and other international institutions, has embarked on a much maligned public relations campaign to say that the victim has been the aggressor. The above facts speak volumes of this, including the Thai threat to unleash its mighty air force on Cambodia if Cambodia did not withdraw from its own territory.
Surely the international community and ASEAN are mature enough and have within them the capability of rational thinking based on the facts on the grounds to judge or conclude who is the aggressor and who is the victim.
Furthermore, Abhisit also alleged that Cambodia used the world heritage listing of Preah Vihear to house troops and launch attacks on Thai territory. This is another outrageous lie and false propaganda designed to pull the wool over the international community’s eyes and against all reasoning.
Cambodia has to defend the vicinity of Preah Vihear Temple given the fact that Thailand has tried on several occasions by military means to occupy the temple’s surrounding area, which is Cambodia’s territory.
This is the opening Thailand is seeking, yearning and even prepared to die for. Thailand wants to walk into the Preah Vihear Temple unopposed, unchallenged and plant its flag on sovereign Cambodian soil.
Thailand intended and intends to do this unopposed and is masking its intentions by alleging that Cambodia is using the world heritage site as a military base.
These lies and malicious rumours are precisely the reason why Cambodia has invited the United Nations military observers to take up positions in the Preah Vihear Temple region and its vicinity, on sovereign Cambodian territory, so the international community can see up close and in person that Cambodia is indeed a victim of Thailand’s grand scheme of annexing Cambodian soil, seizing Cambodia’s and the world’s cultural heritage from right under the nose of Cambodia and the world community.
This would indeed be the case if Cambodia left the temple unguarded as history and the ICJ has proven that Thais have looted the Preah Vihear Temple for centuries and will continue to do so, even if they have no legal, cultural, historical and no moral right to the temple or its vicinity.
Cambodia, by appealing to the UNSC and the world community, including UNESCO, to take up its just cause, has done the right thing as an intransigent Thailand has proven time and again over decades that it cannot be trusted or depended upon to accept internationally binding verdicts, not bilateral agreements, as it harbours territorial ambitions and to claim as its own what it does not own or understand in the first place.
Ek Madra is spokesperson for the Press and Quick Reaction Unit at the Council of Ministers.