Saturday, 5 March 2011

ESSAY: THAILAND CAMBODIA BORDER CONFLICT: MYTH ENTERTAINED, HISTORIC FACTS DISTORTED


via CAAI

• How the myth is entertained.
• Why Thailand manipulates the myth.
• What are the historic facts?

1- Flash news: Acting on the mandate of the UN Security Council (UNSC) meeting on 14 February 2011, ASEAN Foreign Ministers met in Jakarta on 22 February 2011 to give a solid ground for a permanent ceasefire. Under Indonesian chairmanship, the regional group approved the sending of Indonesians to observe the ceasefire agreed upon by the two sides. It is a great and concrete achievement as well as a first time ever for ASEAN since its inception in 1967. It must be a great victory for the people of both Cambodia and Thailand to free themselves from war games they knew no one will prevail over the other if left to fight without an outside witness, as imposed by Thailand over the same border skirmishes of the last two years. Not until Cambodia took it to the UNSC when a real war broke out on last 4th February. Cambodia welcome the outcome as it positively responded to her wishes and expectation. In Bangkok, the same feeling may not be shared as, obviously, the establishment was forced to accept the ceasefire and the sending of Indonesian observers to the “disputed zone”. Bangkok, under great pressure at home to teach a lesson to its smaller neighbor, insisted earlier that outside helps were not welcome. Given all the war games so well prepared and its public opinion heated up, it is the concern of every one to be assured that the Thai army is under the command of cool heads and not pushed by the street politics.

2- Immediately after ASEAN Jakarta meeting, like after the UNSC meeting a week earlier, Bangkok had to talk positive about the outcomes in order to show its humane face. However, its war rhetoric at home and bellicose stance have not been tamed down as we expected. Under intense pressure from the streets, as well as from the oligarchy, ultra nationalists repeated their threat to take military actions any time to “take back” the so-called 4.6km2 of Cambodian land they claimed as theirs while accusing Cambodia of all evil. The demagogue politicians and the media poured scorns and incited racial hatred against Cambodians and their leaders in an all out effort to focus their attention on the Cambodia border, away from their deep political and social crisis at home which may precipitate the end of an era in Thailand. There exists indeed a real danger of implosion in Bangkok that would ignite explosion of border fighting to justify their military adventure and/or to blame others. Cambodia is used to this Bangkok puppet show for a long time and it is about time to stop it for good.

3- How the myth is entertained by the establishment in Bangkok: Siam, later known as Thailand, came into existence and grew to its present day Thailand on former Khmer empire which lost its western provinces to advancing Siamese army. As a result, successive Khmer kings paid a vassal tribute to Bangkok until France came to exercise its protectorate over Cambodia from 1863 to 1953. France then started to negotiate with Siam for a definite border demarcation and delimitation between France Indochina and Siam, and both had concluded a number of conventions and treaties (1904 and 1907) and many others. With regard to Cambodia, a Franco-Siamese border commission produced clearly marked maps and planted a number of border posts. In the process, three Cambodian provinces in north-north west were returned to Cambodia in exchange for a few Cambodian provinces, Trat, Chantabori, etc in the south sea border were given to Thailand.

4- This part of history has been put in the dark so as to arouse Thai irredentist claims that all the territory west of the Mekong were Thai and Thailand were forced by France to unduly give a lot of Thai land to Cambodia. The truth is and remains that it was Cambodia which had lost a great deal of land to Thailand. Yet Cambodia, a law abiding country, never claimed them back from Thailand, nor initiated any conflict with her neighbor. Then, in 1941, taking advantage of World War II with Japan’s occupation of French Indochina, Thailand annexed the western Cambodian provinces of Battambang, Siem Reap, Kompong Thom, but was forced to return them back to Cambodia under the Washington Treaty in 1946.

5- From then on, as if a prey had been taken away from its grip, all the Thai myth of land ownership has been building up to justify Thailand’s military occupation of some Cambodian lands, in particular the temple of Preah Vihear and its surrounding in 1954, soon after Cambodia acceded to independence in 1953. After years of unfruitful negotiations, Cambodia, under Prince Norodom Sihanouk, brought the case to The Hague International Court of Justice (ICJ) which rendered a verdict on 15 June 1962 in favor of Cambodia. The ICJ verdict was crystal clear when it referred to the Franco-Siamese treaties and border maps produced by Franco-Siamese border commission, used ever since by both parties as valid and legal international documents. Most important, and Thailand cannot deny it, was a “Dangrek Map”, known as “Annex 1”, formed part of the 1962 ICJ decision. This “Annex 1” map is to this day crystal clear over the border lines between Thailand and Cambodia. Only blinds and bad faith sore losers, obsessively and madly, keep repeating until this day that the 1962 ICJ ruling recognized that only the temple belonged to Cambodia and not the ground surrounding it. Any honest person needs no PHD diploma to appreciate the very well explained ICJ decision. To contest it now is a lost cause and may hide another agenda, that of revising all the border treaties signed with France. It is often heard that the Thais never accepted the ICJ ruling, another myth entertained.

6- The fact is that after the 1962 ICJ verdict, Thailand did accept the decision and withdrew all its army and police forces to the other side of this frontier line. Then, how can any honest and responsible person later claimed that the 1962 ICJ decision left unclear the border line on the surrounding area of Preah Vihear temple when a very well define “Annex 1” map was part of this decision? Look at the “Annex 1” map and everything is all clear, and any attempt to discard this map is a demonstration of dishonesty and a deliberate violation of the 1962 ICJ decision. From when this was not clear when it was all clear in the works of the Franco-Siamese border demarcation commission that produced these internationally recognized maps, when it was clear in 1962 ICJ and thereafter? The Thais may be unhappy with the verdict, but they did recognize the existence of the “Annex 1” map with a clear border line. What made them change from this recognition to an open violation of the ICJ verdict? After their withdrawal from the area in 1962, behaving like international outlaws, from across the border line, they continued to bombard the area again with heavy artillery which prompted the Cambodian government to send complains to the UNSC in 1966. Equally of noteworthy is the fact that the Thais had not contested the ICJ decision within a period of 10 years as prescribed. Why they are doing it now 49 years later? Has globalization changed the rules of international law to please Thai ambitions? Have the Thais so grown up to defy the international community with impunity?

7- When Cambodia fell prey to the upheavals of a coup d’état in 1970 in the mid of the Vietnam war, to the tragedy of the Khmer rouge genocide in 1975, and the post Khmer rouge civil war from 1979, Thailand was the frontline state that offered sanctuaries to the Khmer rouge remnants to regroup, rearm and conduct guerilla war inside freshly liberated Cambodia. Thailand’s support to the Khmer rouge outlaws continued before and during UNTAC’s administration of Cambodia between 1991 and 1993 and well after the formation, in 1993, of a newly elected Cambodian government under the UN supervision, until 1998, in flagrant violation of the Paris Peace Agreement of 1991 signed by Thailand. Evidence came out later revealing that some Cambodia-Thailand border posts have been either destroyed or displaced well inside Cambodian territory. One can imagine how difficult are the works of the Joint Border Commission set up to restore the international border lines on the ground when the culprits are confronted with the facts.

8- It is equally about this same period that the Thais secretly produced their own map, drawn on the US war maps, intended to replace the “Annex 1” map, with a new border line showing the so-called 4.6km2 parcel of land surrounding Preah Vihear temple they claimed, not as “contested area”, but as Thai territory, in flagrant violation of the 1962 ICJ verdict, a rarity in modern day world. This fact alone that they used an illegal and unilateral map constitutes an act of aggression and a casus belli.

9- With this illegal map, the Thai irredentist ultra nationalist group started to brainwash their fellow citizen, including young generation of scholars, and to fool foreign governments that Cambodia was encroaching on Thai territory. For instance, their representatives went around, with this illegal map, to fool UNESCO members when Preah Vihear temple was on the agenda of the World Heritage list. Obviously, their fabrication did not hold water and World Heritage Committee members just ignored it and unanimously approved the listing in 2008, thus reconfirming the 1962 ICJ decision in favor of Cambodia.

10- The irredentist group, probably for their political survival, started to act like outlaws against the whole world and to provoke military conflicts with Cambodia, accusing Cambodia of having started the war! Bangkok media picked it up to fool the public that Phnom Penh started this war for political and election purposes. It must be the other way around when, in 2008, Bangkok was under street protests from both yellow and red shirts that paralyzed business and airports operations for a few weeks. Honest people cannot accept such a misleading story from the aggressor. But some biased and irresponsible media likes also to entertain this myth when, with an air of superiority, they belittled the temple as a “tiny, crumbling, 11th century old” “ruins” claimed by both countries. UNESCO must then be wrong to list it as one of the World Heritage sites, and Cambodia must be wrong to claim her own property? Of course, the above is just a very condensed story showing how some bright people in Bangkok born with some inferiority complex, culturally speaking, spend their life to enlighten themselves by manipulating and distorting well known facts and history so as to demonize Cambodia and her past and present leaders.

11- What are the historic facts? Thai irredentist group, master in misleading, intoxicating and manipulating the truth, furiously accused UNESCO of having “unilaterally inscribed” the Khmer Preah Vihear temple on the World Heritage list in 2008, and therefore, of having started the border conflict between the two countries. They do not realize that are being foolish in demanding that UNESCO delist the Khmer temple from the World Heritage and in voicing their objection to UNESCO’s mission to assess the damages caused by their artillery shell to the protected temple and to the Buddhist pagoda nearby. Will UNESCO bend backward under Bangkok pressure? But everyone knew that it was Thailand’s occupation of the temple area on 15th July 2008 which started the fighting. And Cambodia, caught by surprise, has the right to defend herself or not? Before the brief war on 4-7 February 2011, the Thai establishment and army launched an ultimatum to Cambodia to, first, remove the Cambodian flag from the Khmer Buddhist pagoda about 300m away from the temple, second to remove this pagoda away from this Cambodian land, and third, to expulse all Cambodian population living in this area. Can Cambodia or any country accept that ultimatum? Then they started to move in their bulldozers with a clear intention to open the ways for the destruction of the pagoda and for their tanks to occupy the so called “contested zone”. It is crystal clear who started the war inside Cambodian territory, where a few Thai soldiers had lost their life and five had been made prisoners inside Cambodia and later released to their commanders. During the fighting, they deliberately targeted the Buddhist pagoda flying Cambodian flag and in particular, the Preah Vihear temple, flying UNESCO flag, with the deliberate intention of destroying it to ground with heavy artillery, since this world protected site is beyond their recuperation any way. This once again reveals their evil nature and their disrespect for anything civilized. Their war crimes under The Hague or UNESCO conventions cannot be overlooked.

12- To be all above the misleading intoxication and disinformation from Bangkok, it is worth to know that there exist a long history of Thai territorial ambitions coupled with war games against Cambodia, and the latest fighting which warranted recent UNSC and ASEAN’s attention may not be the last. To have a short summary of history and events that mark the difficult relations between Cambodia and Thailand, Raoul Marc JENNAR, in his book “TRENTE ANS DEPUIS POL POT. Le Cambodge de 1970 à 2009” (L’Harmattan, page 234), put it very well as follows:

13- “Dès que le Cambodge est fragilisé, la Thaïlande en profite pour remettre en question les traités et conventions qu’elle a signés. Il en a été ainsi pendant la deuxième guerre mondiale. Il en a été de même lorsque la France a cessé de protéger le Cambodge et lorsqu’il a plongé dans la tragédie. Chaque fois, la Thaïlande n’a pas manqué de contester la frontière et même d’en violer le tracé.

Pendant les années quatre-vingt, l’armée thaïlandaise opérait aux côtés des forces du CGKD (Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea including the Khmer rouge). Pendant la mission des Nations unies au Cambodge, les casques bleus ont observé à plusieurs reprises des déplacements de bornes frontalières vers l’intérieur du territoire cambodgien par des unités de l’armée thaïlandaise. Pendant le mois de juillet 2008, on a pu lire dans la presse de Bangkok et entendre de la bouche des manifestants thaïlandais des revendications nationalistes et irrédentistes allant jusqu’à réclamer trois provinces cambodgiennes dont celle où se trouve le parc des temples d’Angkor.

Un rappel des faits historiques constitue la plus incontestable réfutation des thèses avancées par la Thaïlande.

1) En 1904, la France, puissance protectrice du Cambodge, et le Siam signent une convention afin de pouvoir déterminer d’une manière définitive la frontière entre le Cambodge et le Siam.

2) En 1907, un traité franco-siamois rétrocède au Cambodge trois provinces annexées par le Siam. Ce traité confirme les dispositions de la Convention de 1904 en ce qui concerne les modalités de délimitation de la frontière.

3) En 1908, une commission mixte franco-siamoise crée par ce traité détermine la frontière dans le secteur de Dangrek et indique clairement que le temple de Preah Vihear et ses environs sont en terre cambodgienne.

4) En 1925, la France et le Siam signent un traité d’amitié dont l’article 2 indique que « les hautes parties contractantes confirment, en s’en garantissant le respect réciproque, les frontières établies entre leurs territoires en vertu et en conformité des stipulations des accords antérieurs. »

5) En 1926, une convention franco-siamoise relative au Mékong confirme l’article 2 du traité de 1925.

6) En 1937, un nouveau traité d’amitié reprend les dispositions du traité de 1925 relatives aux frontières.


7) En 1946, après que la Thaïlande, alliée du Japon pendant la deuxième guerre mondiale, ait occupé trois provinces cambodgiennes, l’accord de règlement franco-siamois rétablit le traité de 1937. La Commission de conciliation franco-siamoise considère que les clauses du traité de 1907 au sujet de la frontière entre le Siam et le Cambodge ne doivent pas être révisées.

8) En 1954 alors que le Cambodge a accédé à son indépendance un an plus tôt, une force armée thaïlandaise occupe le temple de Preah Vihear et ses environs.

9) In juin 1962, la Cour Internationale de Justice, à la demande du Cambodge, rend un arrêt confirmant la souveraineté du Cambodge sur le temple de Preah Vihear et ses environs en vertu de la ligne frontière établie, laquelle a été confirmée par des traités successifs et n’a jamais fait, jusqu’alors, l’objet de contestation de la part de la Thaïlande. « La Cour s’estime donc tenue, du point de vue de l’interprétation des traités, de se prononcer en faveur de la frontière indiquée sur la carte pour la zone litigieuse » (page 35 de l’arrêt). L’arrêt précise que « la Thaïlande est tenue de retirer tous le éléments des forces armées ou de police ou autres gardes ou gardiens qu’elle a installés dans le temple et ses environs situés en territoire cambodgien » (page 37).

10) En juillet 1962, la Thaïlande accepte l’arrêt de la Cour Internationale de Justice et ne fait pas appel pendant les dix années successives pendant lesquelles elle pouvait le faire.

11) En juillet 1967, M. Thanat Khoman, ministre thaïlandais des affaires étrangères déclare : « La Thaïlande n’émet aucune revendication territoriale au Cambodge. La position de la Thaïlande a toujours été de dire qu’il n’existe pas de dispute sur les frontières avec le Cambodge dans la mesure où elle a constamment respecté le traité signé avec la France à l’époque où cette dernière était la puissance protectrice du Cambodge. »

12) En juin 2000, le Cambodge et la Thaïlande signent un Memorandum of understanding (MOU)- un protocole d’accord- en vue de la démarcation et de l’abornement de la frontière entre les deux pays dans le respect des traités et conventions (article 1c).

13) En 2001, le Cambodge demande officiellement l’inscription du temple de Preah Vihear sur la liste du Patrimoine mondial de l’Humanité de l’UNESCO.

14) En mai 2003, le Cambodge et la Thaïlande signent un document intitulé « Terms of Reference and Master Plan for the Joint Survey and Demarcation of Land Boundary between the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Kingdom of Thailand” (TOR). Ce document fait explicitement référence à la convention de 1904, au traité de 1907, aux cartes qui en découlent et au MOU de juin 2000. Peu après, revenant sur les engagements du MOU et de ces TOR, la Thaïlande publie une carte unilatérale avec un tracé frontalier qui remet en cause le tracé en vigueur depuis 1908 et longe le voisinage immédiat du temple de Preah Vihear.

15) Le 18 juin 2008, le Cambodge et le Thaïlande signent un communiqué commun par lequel la Thaïlande soutient la demande cambodgienne en vue de l’inscription du temple de Preah Vihear sur la liste du Patrimoine mondial de l’Humanité de l’UNESCO ; il est précisé que cette inscription se fait sans préjudice des travaux de démarcation prévus par le MOU de 2000 et les TOR de 2003.

16) Le 21 juin 2008, le général Prem Tinsulanonda, Premier ministre de 1980 à 1988 et chef du Conseil privé du Roi de Thaïlande, exprime son soutien aux manifestants thaïlandais qui s’opposent à l’inscription du temple.

17) Le 1 juillet 2008, le gouvernement thaïlandais retire son soutien à l’inscription du temple.

18) Le 7 juillet 2008, le Comité du Patrimoine mondial de l’Humanité inscrit, à l’unanimité, le temple sur la liste du Patrimoine mondial de l’Humanité. Le Ministre des Affaires étrangères de Thaïlande exprime en vain son opposition.

19) Le 15 juillet 2008, les forces armées thaïlandaises violent l’intégrité du territoire cambodgien dans le secteur de Preah Vihear et, de ce fait, les traités et conventions et documents conjoints signés par la Thaïlande.

Tels sont les faits. Ils sont vérifiables et non contestables. Il résulte de ces faits qu’une frontière existe bel et bien entre le Cambodge et la Thaïlande dont le tracé a été confirmé à plusieurs reprises par les autorités thaïlandaises au cours du siècle écoulé. En conséquence, le temple et son voisinage sont intégralement sous la souveraineté exclusive du Cambodge. La fragilité des engagements de la Thaïlande donne de ce pays l’image d’un partenaire peu enclin à honorer sa signature. »

14- With all these well known facts, it should be enough for honest people to understand the real causes of the conflict and the Thai entertained myth, to stop repeating distorted historic facts and to stop demonizing Cambodians and their leaders for having dared to defend her sovereignty and territorial integrity. They should be praised for having exercised utmost patience and self restrain when confronted, for years, with foreign verbal and physical aggression and from repeated, slanderous and non updated media reporting. It is also undeniable that the Bangkok media has been playing a substantial part in fueling the confrontation, often taking it as a personal issue to demonize the past and present Cambodian leaders.

15- On the other hand, the Thais should not be encouraged by biased reporting and by fake historians to follow an obsession and foolish Pan Thai dream of past centuries. In today’s world, they should learn to live in peace, friendship, mutual respect and good neighborliness with all their immediate neighbors. They should be encouraged to accept historic facts, to abide by international law, to conform themselves with the UN Charter, the ASEAN Charter and to honor all agreements they have signed. Domestic political crisis is no reason to discharge it on neighbors, or to provoke irrational border conflict or claim. With these lessons learnt, the ASEAN community in the making will be a better place for all.

Paris, 28th February 2011
Royal Embassy of Cambodia

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