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Asean Affairs   7 July  2011

New Thai government may ease border dispute

By  David Swartzemtruber

AseanAffairs     7 July 2011

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The dispute over the Preah Vihear temple, which straddles the Thailand-Cambodia border, and which has been a continued source of friction between the two countries may be easing as a new Thai government assumes power.

Thaksin Shinawatra, elder brother of prime minister-elect Yingluck Shinawatra, has a good relationship with Cambodia’s premier Hun Sen and that is probably the biggest reason for a peaceful resolution. The exiled Mr. Thaksin is widely regarded as the real power behind the Pheu Thai party with Ms. Yingluck being a “clone” of Mr. Thaksin.

Coincidentally, the Cambodian press is reporting that villagers along the border have begun to return to their homes.

The dispute between Thailand and Cambodia was exacerbated under the outgoing Democrat party when several nationalists were apprehended by the Cambodian army in the border area and charged with spying. Two were convicted of spying and are still being held in prison in Cambodia.

Subsequently, when the World Heritage Centre (WHC) advanced Cambodia’s plan for managing the temple, Thailand walked out of its relationship with the WHC. The move was seen by many observers in Thailand as a ploy to stir up nationalists to come out and vote for the Democrats.

The effort failed, of course, as the Democrats lost handily to Pheu Thai in the recent July 3 election.

The border dispute was a major issue at the recent Asean Summit in Jakarta. Indonesia’s mediation on the diplomatic side unfortunately did not bear much fruit, however, at a defense ministers’ meeting following the summit, a cease-fire agreement was reached by the defense chiefs of the two countries.

As is the case with any new government anywhere in the world, the Pheu Thai government has many things on its agenda but at some point perhaps a solution can be found to straighten out this enduring problem between the two countries.

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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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