Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Damage Caused by Thai Aggression

via CAAI

Tuesday, 01 March 2011 01:11 DAP-NEWS

In just four days of aggression (4-7 February 201107), Thai military forces inflicted great damage to and around the Temple of Preah Vihear, and to inhabited areas of Cambodia up to 20 kilometres from the temple.

In the Thai attacks with both infantry and artillery, four Cambodian soldiers and one policeman were killed and 30 were wounded. The Thai shelling killed two civilians and wounded one.

The Thai artillery appeared to be deliberately targeting both civilian areas and Cambodian cultural and religious works.

As a result of the attacks, civilians were forced to flee from Svay Chrum, the Preah Vihear Eco-Village, Techo Bossabov Village and Sen Chhey Village. If the intention was to create large numbers of refugees who would complicate the Cambodian authorities' response to the Thai attacks, that was the result. Some over 10,000 Cambodian villagers - 1000 of them children and 500 of them elderly - were forced to flee their homes.

Harm to cultural and religious property included serious damage to Wat Keo Sikha Kiri Svara, which was the first object of the Thai attack on 4 February. Damage included destruction of statues of the Buddha and other religious objects. Even more criminal was the systematic shelling of the Temple of Preah Vihear, in clear violation of the 1954 Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property during Armed Conflict, to which both Thailand and Cambodia are signatories. The temple which received incoming artillery along its entire length, damaging all five gopuras or entrance pavillions. Many of the shells carried cluster munitions, meaning that the Temple itself and much of the surrounding area will now be contaminated with unexploded bomblets. To add insult to injury, Thai bullets even damaged the Convention's internationally recognised sign indicating that this is a site at risk and deserving special protection, and the flag of the Cambodian National Commission for UNESCO was shot through and felled from the flagpole alongside the Cambodian national flag and that of UNESCO.

There is no way in which either Wat Keo Sikha Kiri Svara or the Temple of Preah Vihear could be considered legitimate military targets. The Thai military's deliberate damage seems designed to deliver a threat: If we don't get our way, we can destroy the Temple. That is, the Thai Government threatens to destroy what is the cultural property of all humanity.

The deliberate damage to the Temple also explains the Thai Government's repeated insistence that no representative of UNESCO, including special envoy Koichiro Matsuura, should visit the Temple to assess the destruction.

The extensive use of cluster bombs in the Thai attacks has been documented by independent observers. While neither Thailand nor Cambodia have signed the Convention preventing such munitions, their use against non-military targets is clearly a violation of the laws of war. The large number of unexploded bomblets is of course especially dangerous to children, who do not understand their danger. A similar contempt for civilian welfare was evident in Thailand's use of shells containing a still unidentified toxic gas against peaceful villages.

Commentary by Press and Quick Reaction Unit
of the Office of the Council of Ministers.

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