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Asean Affairs  25 April 2011

Is it war or politics?

By  David Swartzemtruber

AseanAffairs     25 April 2011

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With 12 deaths on both sides during the last three days of fighting between Thailand and Cambodia over disputed territory between the two countries, the situation is deteriorating.

Today’s trip of Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, this year’s Asean chairman, to Cambodia and Thailand has been cancelled as it was reported that he wanted to examine the border treaties between the two countries before speaking with Thai officials.

Thailand has been refusing to allow Indonesian observers into the border area, although Cambodia has agreed.

The conflict occurs at a time when Thailand’s general election has unofficially started. The official election should kick off in two weeks, when the lower house of the Thai parliament is dissolved.

Thai political observers speculate that the border conflict could benefit the political fortunes of current Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva as political changes seldom occur during military conflicts.

Thailand’s Election Commission has called for a quick end to the hostilities because troops will be needed to for the upcoming elections.

Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan, who is Thai, wants the two countries to turn to the negotiating table.

"The world and Asean is alarmed by the new outbreak of violent and fatal clashes along the Cambodian-Thai border," he said.

Meanwhile, local media report that reinforcements for both sides are rushing to the border and residents in the battle zones have been or are evacuating.

Given the confluence of the conflict and politics in Thailand, it is difficult predict when Thailand and Cambodia will return to the negotiating table.

Paul A. Ebeling, Jnr

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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